Mr.OWADA Akira, JICA Volunteer in the field of special education, has been working for Special Education Program, Ministry of Education since October 2021. Owada, who has more than 14 years’ experience as a SPED teacher in Japan, is the first JICA volunteer in the field in Palau even though JICA volunteer program has 25 years’ history and nearly 300 Japanese volunteers have been already dispatched since 1997 to Palau.
In Palau, special education program provides services to support eligible children with disabilities and school/program personnel where the child/student is enrolled, with the intent that they are educated with peers without disabilities and participate in the general curriculum in their least restrictive environment. Inclusive education has a positive aspect among others in terms of breaking down the barriers for children with disabilities because all children can recognize disabilities as something common under the system. Like other places, Palau has been experiencing teacher shortage which makes the JICA volunteers such as Mr. Owada more appreciated as they are part of the overall education effort to improve student outcomes to open doors for more choices in their future. The Ministry of Education continues to make available professional development activities and other opportunities to build teacher capacity in teaching all students including students with disabilities.
Owada says “I go around to resource rooms at the schools in Palau, working with Palauan teachers to create lessons and support students with disabilities. What is the purpose of education? To become smarter? To become rich? There are many ways to think about it. I think that students should have many choices by going to school. I have traveled to many countries in Asia. In those countries, there were many children who could not go to school because of poverty. They are still happy and cheerful however they don’t have a choice to go to school. In Palau, children can eat and go to school. The children seem to be happy. However, some children with disabilities have few choices. For example, some children have difficulty of communicating through spoken language. However, if I can help them to communicate through signs or smartphone apps, that child can communicate with others and live their life. In this way, I think I want to help children have one more choice and live a happy life.”
Ms. Nora Renguul, the Coordinator of the special education program says “Palau special education program has been fortunate to have received support from JICA Volunteer Program. Being a small island nation, Palau has limited to none in qualified professionals in specialized areas such as occupational therapy, orientation & mobility, speech pathology and etc. However, special ed. program has benefitted from JICA volunteers who were occupational therapist several years ago when we didn’t have any on island. I am thankful to JICA Palau Office in getting our current JICA volunteer, Mr. Akira Owada, who has contributed so much to the program’s effort in supporting the education of children and youth with disabilities. With so many years of experience as a special ed. teacher in Japan, Mr. Owada has the knowledge and ability to teach students with disabilities as well as support special ed. teachers and parents. He is known to have traveled to different schools with special ed. specialist or by himself to teach students with disabilities and provide support to special ed. teachers. He has also visited homes to meet with parents as part of his work to support the teachers and schools. Mr. Owada has become part of the special ed., MOE family and will be missed when it’s time for him to return to Japan.
This year, JICA volunteer program in Palau commemorates 25 years of its history. During the quarter century, more than 290 volunteers have worked and contributed not only to socio economic development of Palau, but also to mutual understanding between both countries through their grassroots activities. The cooperation has been unique and precious in Palau which enables sustainable development by providing human to human relationships between the two countries.
To learn more about this and other JICA Programs, contact the Ministry of State or JICA Palau Office, or visit https://www.jica.go.jp/english or Facebook, JICA Palau Office.