Press Release
February 2, 2008

Free special schooling pushed for 376,000 handicapped kids

Sen. Loren Legarda has introduced a bill seeking to provide free special education that would help rehabilitate and develop the country's estimated 376,000 handicapped children.

Under Senate Bill 941, the Department of Education (Deped) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development shall establish a special schooling program that would cater to the needs of mentally and physically handicapped children.

"Government should provide free, adequate and suitable public schooling for handicapped children to ensure their survival and advancement," Legarda stressed.

"We must provide them full financial and learning assistance at an early age. This way, they can become self-reliant citizens once they reach the economically productive age," Legarda pointed out.

Under Legarda's proposal, special schools for handicapped children shall be established in every province, city and municipality.

The schools shall provide free pre-elementary and elementary levels of education with maximum opportunities for integration with non-handicapped peers.

The Deped shall prescribe a special learning program, taking into consideration the aptitude handicaps and talents of the children.

Congress shall set aside P50 million for the initial implementation of the special education program.

The program and its benefits shall include free ambulatory equipment or devices for handicapped children, free tuition and allowances for textbooks and transportation.

Special services such as note-takers and readers for the blind, sign interpreters for the deaf and tutorial instruction shall also be provided.

The National Statistics Office's latest Census on Population and Housing estimates at more than 940,000 the total number of Filipinos with disability.

In a paper recently presented before a World Bank conference, the Philippine chapter of Disabled Peoples' International said children now comprise up to 40 percent of all Filipinos with disability. This implies that the country has some 376,000 handicapped children.

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