ROCKINGHAM,.North Carolina–I was reminded of Dr. Jess Jumawan, PhD after learning that the budget for children with disabilities was not given funding. I had this conversation with Dr. Jumawan on my ‘Susan Live’ program months ago and we talked about children with special needs.
He talked about how he and his wife handled their daughter who was diagnosed with autism spectrum. We talked on and on about autism and ended with an appeal to parents who are similarly situated to band together so that the provision of Republic Act 7277 (Act providing for the rehabilitation, self-development and self-reliance of disabled persons) be given enough support.
That way, we can all help children with special needs to attain their full potential. Instead, there’s zero budget for SPED (special education) in the Department of Education’s (DepEd) proposed P710 billion budget for 2023. My ears stood up as tall as Mount Everest on hearing that. How can that be? But then the DepEd blames the Department of Budget and Management for not allocating a budget for SPED.
The DBM defended itself by saying that DepEd didn’t include SPED in their budget proposal. My opinion is that the DBM explanation makes sense. The DBM reviews the proposal coming from the departments so what is there to check and approve if it’s not even there in the first place?
This is now a case of finger pointing which is normal on the government’s part but not good for the children with special needs. Ever since I knew that the government’s budget is an important public document which every taxpayer has a right to know and peruse, I’ve been hammering in my programs or in my columns that Filipinos should always pay attention to the national budget when it’s being prepared by each department and reviewed by Congress.
Children with special needs need as much assistance as regular students. They are already disadvantaged so they should be given more in law to quote the late great president Ramon Magsaysay.
I worked before in a school system in the Carolinas specifically with children with special needs and I saw the abundance of resources provided by the state. In one class with only 15 students, two teachers are provided and three teacher assistants. Equipment for easy learning, a rehabilitation faculty, personal hygiene (pull ups, diapers, soap, shampoo and anything they need) are provided. Doctors, speech therapists and other specialists are provided and paid for by the state.
Aside from this, these students are not confined to schools. They go to field trips, to malls and business establishments. They do many other things that make them good citizens of the state. Can that be done in the Philippines. I would like to believe that the answer is yes, right Dr. Jumawan?
In the Philippine setting children with special needs are mostly neglected unless they have parents who can afford to provide their needs. Whoever is at fault in the zero budget debacle is not important now. What’s important is that Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte-Carpio is listening finally to the pleas of parents of children with special needs.
Otherwise what’s the use of the Basic Education Act and other applicable laws as well as the recent Magna Carta for Disabled Persons. If the national government cannot implement them effectively they might as well repeal them and admit defeat. And that would be a tragic failure on their part.