KUALA LUMPUR: A new initiative aimed at helping children with special needs to better interact with others through fitness and sports sessions will be held this year.
The Buddy Club programme will organise extra-curricular football sessions for children with and without disabilities to encourage the integration of special needs students with others.
Jointly organised by the Education Ministry, the Performance Management and Delivery Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department (Pemandu) and Challenges magazine, the programme will be carried out in 10 schools this year.
Education Ministry’s Special Education division director Bong Muk Shin said many parents still had a wrong perception of those with disabilities.
“Some parents even think that disabilities are contagious and discourage their children from mixing with students with special needs.
“According to the World Health Organisation’s estimate, 10% of school-going children in developing countries such as Malaysia are disabled.
“We need to do more in raising awareness of the potential of children with special needs and I hope this programme will expand to other states in the near future,” he said in his speech before launching the programme at SK (L) Jalan Batu here yesterday.
Bong said only 9% of special needs pupils and students in Malaysia were integrated into the mainstream schooling system.
“The ministry is pushing for more inclusive education and we aim to improve this percentage to 75% by 2020.
“This is important to both give encouragement to children with special needs and teach mainstream students to have more empathy for those with disabilities,” he said.
Bong added that 25 teacher-volunteers from the participating schools had been trained on coaching skills to lead the clubs in their respective schools.
SK (L) Jalan Batu headmaster Jamaludin Mohd Hashim said he was pleased that it had been chosen as the pioneer school for the project.
“The children have been very positive and enthusiastic since the project was introduced last month and, hopefully, more parents will show their support by acting as volunteers,” he said.
The six primary schools involved in the project this year are SK (L) Jalan Batu, SK Polis Depot, SK Taman Maluri, SK Taman Tun Dr Ismail 2, SJK (T) Jalan Fletcher and SJK (C) Sam Yoke.
The four secondary schools taking part are SMK Seri Ampang, SMK SS17 Subang Jaya, SMK Bandar Sunway and SMK Seksyen 5 Wangsa Maju.