According to the 2017 Inclusive Education Policy and Guidelines, inclusive education occurs when all education stakeholders work together to strengthen the capacity of our education system and combat discriminatory approaches and attitudes towards student, particularly those with disabilities. Inclusive education is about changing the system to suit the needs of all learners. A disability-focused definition was included in the 2011 Education Act, which defines the principle of inclusive education as “the principle that school-age children who have a disability must, where practicable, be enrolled in and attend a school, and be given the opportunity to participate together with the other students at the school in the education and extracurricular activities offered by the school”.
Special education needs
The 2017 Inclusive Education Policy and Guidelines also define students with special learning needs (SLN) as those learners who for one reason or another, do not develop to their full educational potential. This includes students who are not extended by the curriculum and are regarded as gifted and talented. Students with special educational learning needs may have been diagnosed with a disability.
The 2011 Education Act related special education needs to “a child with a disability, means the child’s need for education to be tailored to suit the child’s individual requirements, and to receive other forms of support and assistance, in order to maximise the child’s academic and social development”.
According to the 2011 Education Act, the principal of the school is responsible for determining the “practicable” attendance of regular school for learners with disabilities. The decision takes into consideration the extent of the special education needs and the developmental and learning benefits for the child, the school accessibility, the parents’ decision and consent to let the child undertake a medical consultation, and the medical practitioner’s advice (art. 2). Home schooling is also allowed upon formal registration (art.97). School-age children who cannot attend regular school attend a centre for special education (art.95.3).
Children with disabilities are not mainstreamed in regular schools and have a center of their own, although support is provided by the Education Department under the Education Act 2011. In 2002, the “Able Disable Centre” was set up to provide education for children and youth with disabilities who cannot be included into regular schools of all ages. However, the centre provides mainly care rather than education services, since only few teachers have obtained a recognized teaching qualification. According to Nauru reports to the Convention on the Right of the Child (2016), the “Able Disable Centre” was “resourced by a teacher in charge, 2 teachers, 3 trainee teachers with one teacher being hearing impaired. 42 students, with ages ranging from 4 to 34 attend classes. (…) Current programs taught focus on: a) life Skills in gardening, cooking, health and art and craft; and b) Individual Education Program (IEP). Inclusive education will be progressively realized in the coming years”.
Early identification, screening and assessment
As regulated by the 2011 Education Act, health practitioners notifies the disability of school-age child to the parents and upon their consent to the Director of Medical Services and the principal of the school (art.31).
However, many children are not identified because of parents’ resistance, insufficient resources and equipment.
The 1968 Constitution of Nauru does not explicitly enshrine the right to education. In its non-discrimination provision, it affirms that every person enjoys the same rights and freedoms regardless of “race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex” (art.3). Conversely, the 2011 Education Act lays down the right to education to all (art.7.a), providing positive learning experiences in a “safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment” and according to the learners’ educational needs (art.7.c).
While the 2011 Education Act regulates the education system, the 2016 Child Protection and Welfare Act lays legal foundation s for the overall protection of children’s rights in the country. Adopted by the Directorate of Youth Affairs under the Department of Education (DoE), the National Youth Policy 2008–2015 promotes the integration of the youth interest and rights across all sectors, paying particular attention to the most disadvantaged groups, such as young women, young people with disabilities, school drop- and push-outs students.
As established in the 2016 Child Protection and Welfare Act, education and training opportunities are provided according to the learner’s age and capabilities. In case of disability, the child is entitled to appropriate assistance to cater for his/her special needs. Yet, there is no specific legal document regulating service provision, including education for people with disabilities.
Informed by the principle of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (CRPD), ratified in 2013, a Nauru Policy on Disability (NNPD) was adopted in 2015 to reiterate the right of non-discrimination and full participation of persons with disabilities into the society. Adopting an inclusive-disability approach, the Nauru National Policy on Disability 2015-2019 protects and promotes the rights and interests of persons with disabilities, including for the education provision.
In the education sector, the 2011 Education Act establishes the right of children with disabilities to be enrolled in regular school, according to the principle of inclusive education, namely they are entitled to participate with their peers in curricular and extracurricular activities, “whether it is practicable” (art.94.2). Denying access to primary and secondary education on the grounds of disability is prohibited (art.95.1). In this respect the government is mandated to provide “reasonable accommodation” and the support required through individualised measures and adequate and qualified school staff (art.95.2).
The latest strategic plan, Footpath for Education and Training Strategic Plan 2008–2013, intends to support all learners, including children and youth with disabilities and special needs by providing specialist training for practitioners and teachers and equip all schools with adequate infrastructure.
While the Constitution promotes the fundamental rights and freedoms regardless of sex (art.3), substantive gender equality is enshrined neither in the constitutional nor in other dedicated legislative documents.
Among its strategies and goals, the Nauru National Sustainable Development Strategy 2005-2025, as revised in 2009, promotes the rights of women and gender equality and commits to adopting a gender approach in all development sectors. Within this strategic framework, the Nauru National Women’s Policy 2014-2024 translates into practice the Strategy’s indicators into key policy goals, which includes the increase of equitable participation in all education levels of girls and women. Integrating the Beijing priorities, the Nauru Women’s Action Plan 2004-2015 was adopted with support of Women’s Affairs, together with the Nauru Women’s National Council and Young Women’s Council. A second Plan following the Nauru Young Women’s Action Plan 2009-2015 intend to improve women’s conditions on the island to focus, among others, on education and training and on the elimination of violence against women.
The Footpath for Education and Training Strategic Plan 2008–2013 set outs among its strategic goals the elimination of gender disparities in primary and secondary education and the achievement of gender equality through the enhancement of full and equal access to quality basic education.
A project by the Ministry of Education (NauruMumz – Bright Futures) aims to re-engage young mothers with education and encourage them to return to school, or enroll in courses being offered in the tertiary education via TVET or the University of the South Pacific (USP).
With the purpose of tackling the phenomenon of teenage pregnancy, the Department of Education is working with an expert in teenage parenting skills to develop a programme on teenage parenthood, which includes counselling services and campaigning.
Ethnic and linguistic groups
The Footpath for Education and Training Strategic Plan intended to introduce a Language Policy to encourage the proficiency in Nauruan language of all learners, starting from Year 3.
Poverty and out-of-school children
Formal education is free of charge. While families are responsible for school uniforms, learning materials and transportation is provided by the state. Free lunches and a system of weekly allowance have been introduced to encourage school attendance after decline in the 1990s.
Migrants and refugees
Nauru hosts the Regional Processing Centre (RPC), an Australian centre for asylum-seekers and refugees. Reopened as detention centre in 2012, it was transformed into an open centre in 2015. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that children in the centre do not have access to adequate educational services. To respond to the crisis, a Vulnerable Children’s Committee was set up, consisting of Save the Children, the Australian Border Force, International Health & Medical Services (IHMS), Wilson’s Security, Child Protection Services and the Gender Based Violence Unit. In the Addendum to the 2016 UPR Process, Nauru reassured that children are offered the same treatment, also as regards education, as Nauruan children.
Child labour and truancy
The Ministry of Education has started the implementation of a Truancy Policy that forbids the recruitment if people aged less than 18 unless “an exemption letter is lodged for approval to the Secretary of Education by parents or guardians of the child”. In case of recruitment, the policy demands the provision of home schooling.
The Nauru National Policy on Disability regulates “disability inclusive development” which is coordinated by the Child Protection Services Division under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA), while the policy implementation and monitoring is assigned to the Nauru Disability Coordinating Council.
Concerning gender, the Women’s Office, firstly set up in 1997, has become the Women’s Office to Women’s Affairs Department, sstrengthened and restructured under the MoHA with the mandate to implement programmes across districts and mainstream gender equality in government’s policies.
Family violence and child protection issues are a cross cutting responsibility involving multiple Ministries and Departments, including Education, Police, Justice, Health and Home Affairs. As a result, Cabinet endorsed an Integrated Case Coordination structure which included the establishment of two committees, one dealing specifically with child protection issue.
The National Quality School Standards Framework 2011-2020 published in 2011 includes among its four main pillars Quality School Governance, which encompasses interpersonal skills needed to lead the school community.
In 2012, the National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Policy intended to address the use of drinking and toilet flushing water shortages, which forced to often close schools. Regarding accessibility for people with disabilities, while there is no explicit legal provision regulating access to public buildings, including schools, the Nauru National Policy on Disability enlists among its priorities the enhancement of access to all public “buildings, facilities and services”.
A school environment officer (SEO) has the responsibility of supervising the maintenance of the schools, ensuring the school premises are clean at the interior and exterior of the buildings; fences are intact, and parts of building is not damaged.
According to the report to the CRC, each school in Nauru has developed educational approaches guided by three main principles of “Be respectful, be a learner and be responsible”.
As regulated in the 2011 Education Act, the centre for special education is allowed to apply a modified approved curriculum to cater for the special needs of the students. However, the current curriculum/program mirrors “Early Childhood” offered by the Ministry of Education which is not adequate for blind, deaf and autist children. The Footpath for Education and Training Strategic Plan 2008–2013 intends to develop a comprehensive curriculum for all learners, including those with hearing, visual and intellectual impairments. To make learning relevant to all, new curricula, for example at the senior secondary year levels, have been introduced.
Regarding gender, the 2014 Nauru Gender Country Plan, has permitted the introduction of civics education of Domestic Violence into the school curriculum, while the Family Life Education module began its trial stage at year nine in Nauru College in 2016.
The Ministry of Education “is fully dedicated to the implementation of supporting programmes for the education for all children in Nauru”. Along these lines, a School Feeding Program with free lunches have been distributed to all children in school since 2013, and free transportation has been provided to students.
Providing specialized training for practitioners and educations in inclusive education and disability assessment is part of the priorities of the Footpath for Education and Training Strategic Plan.
To address the issue of shortages in teacher qualifications, the Department of Education has rolled out capacity-building initiatives and up-skilling programmes that lead to the graduation of new teachers at the University of New England with an Associate Degree in Pacific Education. In 2013 the Australian University of New England (UNE) has set up a training program for thirty local teachers at all levels of education including special education such to obtain their Advanced Diploma in Education by the end of 2015.
The 2017 Nauru Inclusive Education Policy and Guideline includes the development of teacher training and assistance programmes to define roles and responsibilities in relation to inclusive education as well as on screening and referral advice, assessment, defining learning needs, and the designing of individual Education Plans (IEPs).
Data on school accessibility, including on WASH in schools and in particular for specific groups, is lacking. The latest data on children with disabilities is based on the 2011 CENSUS. With the purpose of improving the monitoring mechanism, the Education Monitoring and Information Statistics (EMIS) division of the Department of Education is undergoing a reform process.
The National Quality School Standards Framework (NQSSF) has introduced inclusive education indicators, including on Positive School Environment and on Quality Learning Outcomes.