There is no official definition of inclusive education in Sao Tome and Principe.
According to the Basic law of the educational system (2003), special education aims at the socio-educational care and integration of individuals with special educational needs.
Special Education Needs( SEN)
Special education is aims to integrate children with special educational needs into regular education with specialised support, flexible curricula and programs adapted to the needs of the learner.
The Basic law of the educational system (2003), establishes that basic education is universal, compulsory, free and lasts six years. Subsection IV refers to the special modalities of school education; special education, lifelong learning, professional education and distance education.
Special education aims at the socio-educational care and integration of individuals with special educational needs. Special education is organised according to diversified models of integration in regular educational establishments, taking into account the learners’ needs with the support of specialised educators. Special education also takes place in specific institutions such as special schools according to the degree of disability.
The Constitution of Sao Tome and Principe of 1975 recognises the right to education to its citizens (article 55). In addition, it decrees that the State will provide compulsory and free basic education and will promote the elimination of illiteracy.
The Basic law of the educational system (2003), governs the education system in Sao Tome and Principe.
The Education for All National Plan for Action 2002-2015 of Sao Tome and Principe encouraged the adoption of measures to improve the education offer for all students and to promote access, schooling and retention of girls at all education levels.
UNICEF’s Sao Tome and Principe Country programme document for 2017-2021, sought to support the Government’s comprehensive reform of the education system, as outlined in its Education Sectoral Plan and long-term strategy. Two areas are prioritised under the country programme:
- Improving the quality of teaching and learning at primary and secondary levels;
- Strengthening capacities of parents and educators to provide care and early stimulation
In its 2017 Annual Report, UNICEF supported an increase in the provision of quality services in the areas of health, nutrition, sanitation, education, child protection and social inclusion. UNICEF supported the Ministry of Education in advocacy for early childhood development (ECD) and social protection. In the area of inclusive education, UNICEF Sao Tome and Principe helped construct and equip specialised spaces for the education of children with visual and auditory disabilities who are integrated into two primary schools
The Education Sectoral Plan 2012-2022 includes the vision of the education system of Sao Tome and Principe for a 10 year period, together with action plans and strategies to achieve short, medium and long- term objectives with the ultimate goal of ensuring 12 years of quality universal education for everyone in the country. According to the ESP, basic universal education was achieved in 2011. However, access to education is still limited at other education levels, in particular at the higher education.
Specific objectives of the ESP include:
- Improving the offer of higher education and professional technical education
- Implementing high-level training and capacity building policy aimed at training teachers and staff from the Ministry of Education with the aim of improving the quality and efficiency of the education system.
- Guarantee the enlargement and adaptation of special education needs throughout the school system and developing material and pedagogical strategies for children with SEN.
According to the Basic law of the educational system (2003), the State must promote and support special education. The Ministry of Education is responsible for defining the norms that govern special education and coordinating the education policies for its implementation. Special education initiatives might belong to central, regional or local power or to collective entities, civic organisations, institutions and non-governmental organisations.
Some of the objectives of special education include:
- Developing the physical and intellectual potential of children
- Reducing the limitations caused by a disability
- Proving support for the inclusion of children in the school, the family and the society
- Providing adequate professional training for the integration in the workforce
The law also decrees that the State must promote, at the national level, actions aimed at the prevention, diagnosis and early treatment of a disability.
According to UNICEF’s Sao Tome and Principe Country programme document for 2017-2021, children with special needs, especially those with mobility or hearing difficulties are very vulnerable to exclusion. UNICEF reported in its programme document that 71.4% of children with severe mobility difficulties were not enrolled in education. UNICEF Sao Tome and Principe helped construct and equip specialised spaces for the education of children with visual and auditory disabilities who are integrated into two primary schools.
According to UNICEF, while enrolment in primary school is high and inclusive and of boys and girls, access to preschool education is very low. There are concerns for the high dropout and repetition rates, especially among girls. UNICEF also reported that 87,5% of pregnant girls and young mothers dropped out of school in 2012, probably as the consequence of the lack of a gender-responsive education system as pregnant girls are often only allowed to attend evening sessions.
Since 2006 the Disciplinary Act prohibited pregnant girls in the third month of pregnancy from attending classes or school activities and mandated girls to attend night school until the end of their pregnancy. In 2020 with the support of the Global Partnership for Education the Disciplinary Act was removed. The removal of the Disciplinary Act prohibiting pregnant girls from attending school marks an important milestone in the protection of the right of education for girls in the country.
Rurality and remoteness
According to the Education Sectoral Plan 2012-2022, from a geographical point of view access to some locations in the interior of the country remains difficult which represents an obstacle to access to education for some students. The situation is less critical at the basic education level but is worrying in primary and secondary education. For instance, secondary education establishments are often located in the district capitals. Many students will have to travel long distances to access secondary education which leads to high dropouts and hinders education continuity for many learners in the country.
The Basic law of the educational system (2003), promotes the development of social action services using a positive discrimination criteria to provide economical support to the most deprived students.
The Education Sectoral Plan 2012-2022 included information on the situation of people in Sao Tome and Principe. According to the ESP, Sao Tome and Principe had a poverty rate of 66,2% in 2010. Poverty affects more women (71.3%) than men (63,4%) in the island. However, both face challenges to access quality education in the island.
According to UNICEF’s Sao Tome and Principe Country programme document for 2017-2021, secondary school attendance is much lower for the poorest quintile: 42% versus 82% for the richest quintile.
As reported in its 2017 Annual Report, in order to provide adolescents and youth with opportunities for their full intellectual and social development, UNICEF Sao Tome and Principe, in coordination with the Youth Institute, strengthened the Government’s capacity to provide non-formal education programmes through the 13 existing youth interaction centres. UNICEF Sao Tome and Principe and the Youth Institute, which manages the centres, agreed on an improvement action plan which included updating the existing infrastructures and equipment in 2017 and organising training sessions and other youth mobilisation activities in 2018.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education of Sao Tome and Principe (MEES) is in charge of the planning, development and execution of education policies across the islands.
UNICEF through the UNICEF’s Sao Tome and Principe Country programme document for 2017-2021, provides support to the MEES to ensure access to education for all learners.
Infrastructure and services
Article 38 of the Basic law of the educational system (2003), decreed that school infrastructure most be flexible to support the different activities of the school and the community. The school network and dimension of school buildings must be adjusted to the needs and characteristics of the regions and localities, in order to ensure a balance in the number of students. The law also decrees that the needs of students with disabilities and special educational needs must be taking into account when designing a building and choosing the school’s equipment.
UNICEF reported in its 2017 Annual Report that it has supported the construction and equipment of specialised educational rooms for children with visual and auditory disabilities.
Article 46 of the Basic law of the educational system (2003) refers to the development of the curricula. It states that the curriculum plans for basic education will include in al cycles an area of personal and social training which can include the one of the following components; ecological education, sexual education, family education, health education and civic services among others. Portuguese shall be mainstreamed in the curriculum at all education levels, to ensure that all students are able to understand and produce oral and written statements in Portuguese.
The Basic law of the educational system (2003) promotes in-service and pre-service teacher training. However, according to the Education for All National Plan for Action 2002-2015 of Sao Tome and Principe one of the biggest challenges for the education system is the lack of trained teachers. Only 26,5% of the secondary level teachers had a specific training in their area of instruction.
As reported in its 2017 Annual Report, UNICEF has been supporting inclusive education through the training of specialised educators and the mapping of children with disabilities nationwide.
While there are no specific indicators to monitor inclusive education, UNICEF Sao Tome and Principe supported the National Institute of Statistics in the development of the National Statistics Strategy 2017–2021, outlining the main data collection exercises of the period as well as the management structures and partnerships. The strategy mentioned that a MICS will be conducted in 2019 and for which preparations began in 2017 with the signature of a memorandum of understanding between UNICEF Sao Tome and Principe and the National Institute of Statistics.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education of Sao Tome and Principe (MEES) publishes regularly statistical bulletins in its website.