The College of Humanities’ webinar on Inclusive Teaching During and Beyond the COVID-19 Disruption featured Dr Roshanthni Subrayen (UKZN Disability Unit); Professor Tsediso Makoelle (Nazarbayev University) and Professor Monaheng Sefotho (University of Johannesburg). The event was facilitated by Professor Dipane Hlalele (UKZN).
‘Inclusive teaching is understood as a range of approaches that consider the diverse needs and backgrounds of all students/learners to create a learning environment where all students feel valued and all have equal access to learn,’ said Hlalele. ‘The process of inclusion is expected to incorporate fundamental change in the way a learning community supports and addresses the individual needs of each child. As such, effective models of inclusive education not only benefit students with disabilities, but also create an environment in which every student, including those who do not have disabilities, has the opportunity to flourish.’
Makoelle discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on inclusive pedagogy. He introduceed the nature and essence of inclusive pedagogy, focusing on a conceptual framework for teaching and learning during the pandemic. The framework centres around key strategic areas for inclusive pedagogy i.e., access, support, participation and achievement. ‘The challenges and opportunities of the new “pedagogical normal” need to correlate to the mode of curriculum delivery, inclusive support and learning. Teaching and learning in response to the impact of the pandemic should be prioritised,’ he said.
Sefotho discussed the Botho-Ubuntu ethic of care for differently-abled learners during and beyond COVID-19 while delving into the concept of Ubuntu in education spaces. ‘We need to consider human interdependence while acknowledging humanity in the other. Self-interconnection and group hospitality are vital,’ he said. Sefotho commended Ubuntu Pathways (formerly the Ubuntu Education Fund) a nonprofit organisation that provides integrated health, education, and social support in the townships of Port Elizabeth to assist learners during the pandemic.
Subrayen noted that students with disabilities reported more frequent difficulties and barriers to transitioning to online learning. She highlighted that the rapid shift to online learning can result in accessibility challenges and can cause additional stress due to inadequate finance, pre-existing conditions, shame, and social exclusion.
‘Give a voice to the COVID-19, disability and higher education realities of students with disabilities. Consulting with persons with disabilities will help shape equitable and inclusive online teaching and learning during and beyond COVID-19. Maintain resilience, and cultivate inclusion through a rights-based disability lens. This is fundamental in dismantling systemic barriers and advancing human rights and social justice. We need to assess where we have failed and measure our success in supporting students with disabilities during and beyond the pandemic,’ she said.