We interviewed Elena Dal Bó, a Regional Representative for the Americas and a member of the Council of Inclusion International. She was elected at the General Assembly in October 2016. Below she shares her perspective on inclusive education in Argentina.
Q: How do you feel inclusive education is doing in your country (or the countries) you are active in?
A: I live in Argentina, and have contact with most countries in South America. I think that the process of inclusive education has started in Latin American education systems, but we are at the very beginning of it.
Q: Is there resistance to the idea of inclusive education?
A: There is strong resistance to inclusive education. The most powerful resistance in Argentina is from the teachers’ unions. Government officials and legislators, probably because of ignorance about the meaning of inclusive education, are also resistant. I’m not sure what are the main barriers in other Latin American countries.
Q: Or is the resistance focused on identifying barriers and resource issues?
A: The resistance is global, they reject the idea of having children with disabilities in mainstream schools, and they strongly reject the idea of special schools turning into resource centers or some other form of support to inclusive education.
Q: What do you think is the most promising factor in moving inclusion forward?
A: The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), as a treaty on human rights, together with the Report of the High Commissioner on Human Rights on inclusive education and General Comment N° 4 of the Committee are promising factors to moving forward. In Argentina the Convention has Constitutional level, as every international treaty on human rights. These documents are extraordinary useful tools that strengthen the advocating capacity of parents that have built powerful organizations (this is rather new in Argentina and Latin America) in partnership with human rights lawyers.
Q: What role do you think groups like Inclusion International and the Canadian Association for Community Living can play on this effort?
A: I think that the role should be to share expertise in many forms. As a matter of fact, we have used many materials belonging to CACL and Inclusion International along the years to inform our advocacy task. We have also studied New Brunswick’s norms about certification, for example, when the national government of Argentina invited parents’ organizations to discuss a national rule about certification.
These groups can help us through projects in partnership that could strengthen our abilities to address the more problematic obstacles against inclusive education in each country.
They can support our governments when they are willing to make changes. This is possible today in Argentina, as our national government and some provincial governments are willing to receive support to progress towards inclusion in education.
Q: Can you share a personal experience with a child/parent/teacher where inclusion was successful and made a difference?
A: 1. My son Juan, now 25-years-old, went to mainstream school, and could have a good quality education and enter university.
2. A group of Teachers in La Plata, Argentina record good experiences, publish strategies that are relevant to the province of Buenos Aires education system, offer trainings or individual assistance to other teachers and to students on inclusive practices, especially inclusive teaching strategies.
3. In Argentina after many years of individual struggles, a coalition called Article 24 was created, formed by more than 100 organizations mainly of parents, but also of persons with disabilities and some professionals. There is also, since 2015, a Regional Latin American Network for inclusive education called RREI.
4. Our organizations assist many families in their struggle for an inclusive education for their children. Parents are empowered through this interaction and multiply advocacy and peer support.
Q: Can you share anything else about inclusive education?
A: I would like to be sure that when advocates and government officials speak about inclusive education they are thinking about all children with any kind and level of disability. I would like to be sure that people understand that inclusion is about a complete cultural change and not just another word for integration, as we can see this misunderstanding among teachers and education authorities.
I would like for the advantages of inclusive education for every student at risk of being discriminated were highlighted. This would be particularly useful in countries where large parts of the population live in poor conditions, that have migrants, ethnic minorities, and, of course, persons with disabilities.