Cognizant of the role of education for development of a country, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) has been committed to make education accessible to all citizens irrespective of their gender, disability, language, socio economic status, religion, etc. differences. Accordingly, the Government has given due attention to the education of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) and has put in place important legal and policy frameworks. The issues of peoples with disabilities were communicated clearly in the Ethiopian Constitution, Education and Training policy, and more recently the Ministry of Education (MoE) has designed a Special Needs Education Program (SNE) strategy in 2006 to make education accessible to children with special needs and marginalized groups. Ethiopia has also ratified various international Conventions and instruments of relevance to inclusive education. Of particular significance is the UN Convention on the Rights of PwDs 2006, in which Article 24 emphasizes inclusive education.
To create educational access to children with special needs at all levels in Ethiopia, there is a need to implement inclusive educational programs in schools. Every child should be welcomed and get appropriate support in schools. All teachers and administrative personnel need to support each other and share experiences for the best learning of all children. The adults in the school and children should develop trust and treat each other with respect.
Furthermore, the new organizational structure and the expanding general education (about 30,000 general education, grades 1–10, out of which 1517 schools are secondary.) in the country demands that there should be two special needs education teachers in a school, one leading teacher, and one assistant teacher, to support the education and training of children and youth with special needs. The implementation of the plans prerequisites that approximately 60,000 special needs education professionals will be employed. At the moment, however, none of the schools have got teachers with the appropriate expertise, knowledge and skills in special needs education as desired by the guidelines of Ministry of Education, (2001/02). There are only limited number of minimally trained teachers for special schools and classes at primary level.
The Growth and Transformation Plan (2010) and Education Sector Development Plan (2010) are very much demanding to expand SNE programs in the country, to bring access to 97% children with special needs who are out of school currently. The 30,000 regular schools are waiting for professionals in special needs education. Technological transfer and special materials for teaching and learning of children with disability is not locally in place. Assessment instruments are neither country wide nor locally developed and in use. Curriculum is not yet adapted to the needs and potentials of the children with special needs. Schools are not favorable for all children to learn best and enhance quality education. Special needs education works to realize inclusive education, where all children receive quality education.
All challenges mentioned above imply that practical efforts in educating professionals and
teachers, advocacy, awareness creating, involving parents, providing and adapting educational materials, developments of guides and arrangements of additional supports in different forms for children and youth with special needs are not on satisfying level.
For several reasons raised above, Jimma university has the responsibility and also the potential to address contemporary training needs of the nation and respond to the plan of the government and international demands set for example in the conventions and declarations of the UN. The inclusive educational challenges will be taken seriously in the Special Needs and inclusive Education Department. The program will serve the nation by producing competent graduates who would be assigned in different positions. College of Education and Behavioral Sciences has launched Bachelor of Art Degree in Special Needs and Inclusive Education Program in 2015.