Almost a year ago, my parents sat me down to tell me that I’d be leaving Southdowns College and that I would be going to Arden Academy for assessments. If you told me that time that I would be this happy and successful, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. It took time and an ample amount of convincing before I agreed to the idea of home schooling, being that I wasn’t ready to sacrifice my social life for a quiet one. But the more I thought about it, I then realized that it was only friends keeping me at Southdowns, when I should’ve been focused on my academics.
I remember day one at Arden like it was yesterday. I walked in and all I saw was smiles that made me feel warm and welcomed. It was the first time where I felt settled so quickly. And I have my amazing teacher and friends to thank. All I can say about the academics at Arden Academy is that you’re destined for success. It’s most definitely guaranteed, the teachers are caring and patient, take time to know you and find the best suitable teaching method to help you excel in all your chosen subjects. It was words of encouragement and hard work that produced results that I never knew I could achieve.
Lastly, the social part. Now, anyone that knows me knows that, I’m a social butterfly. So, this year wasn’t easy at all. As time went on, it was then that I realized that being in a small class and having a handful of friends (or even less) isn’t as bad as it seems. The friends I made are extremely supportive, genuine, loving and fun. Ever since I joined Arden, I’ve always looked forward to attending school. With great academics, a warm environment and amazing friends, I’ve never been happier.
“Come Mommy, we are late! I want to see my friends now.” Waking up, on the first day of school this year, to my three-year-old (Denlan) nudging me on, to swiftly move along towards our school travel route, I realized that this is one of the most beautiful sentences any parent could ever hear. The friends referred to, are students from Arden Academy who face physical challenges, learning barriers along with neurotypical (average functioning) learners. The beauty of this setup is the fact that my son does not see the difference in ability when he refers to his friends. He does not notice the physical, educational or emotional barriers – he only sees these little human beings as his friends.
The word ‘friend’ refers to a special relationship held between two people. A person can only accept such a relationship if there are posed opportunities for two individuals to become acquainted with and experience their personalities in relation to their values, beliefs and likes. If a child, living with a barrier, is excluded from the education system in whichever way, how are we, as society, allowing our children to gain such powerful feelings of contentment, loyalty, security and empathy associated with friendships?
Providing a child with exposure to inclusive education, not only sets multiple stages for all to create life-long relationships, but to be a part of memorable events that can carry tremendous weight, for life. In addition to this, friendship increases a person’s sense of being and purpose, it also improves self-worth and self-confidence.
Friendships affect us on all spheres of life but what is this “inclusive education” context enabling special friendships to blossom? The White Paper 6 define inclusive education as an accessible element to all students who may require additional support. All learners are accepted as unique individuals with different needs related to learning and daily living requirements. Educational entities are therefore required to support learners with barriers within the classrooms – average functioning classrooms. Regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, language, class, disability or HIV status, students are accepted and respected. (Department of Education. (2001). White Paper 6. Retrieved from https://www.vvob.org/files/publicaties/rsa_education_white_paper_6.pdf).
Upon our return from the first day of school, Denlan sat next to me while he ate and happily exclaimed “Mammie, I had the best day ever!”. Taken aback as a teacher to this comment, knowing that the first three days of school are usually the most taxiing on all levels for a child, due to the change of environment, overwhelming feelings etc., I questioned him to obtain a reason for his statement. The most beautiful, comforting and satisfying answer filled the room as he replied, “because I love my friends” – speechless!
INCLUSIVE EDUCATION FACT 1
Inclusive Education means diverse students learn side by side in the same classroom together with average functioning students
INCLUSIVE EDUCATION FACT 2
All students are placed in their age-appropriate classes regardless of the challenges they may face.
INCLUSIVE EDUCATION FACT 3
The curriculum is adapted to fit the child’s needs.