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Christmas offers an opportunity to reflect on inclusive education

Whether the story of Jesus’ birth occurred the way it has been told is outside the scope of our work. We have taken the story at its face value. Society has always had outcasts, the excluded, those living on the fringes of society. The shepherds were outcasts and excluded from social life. People living with disabilities are outcasts for as long as they are not let into mainstream classrooms. Inclusive education is an imperative.
Photo of a teacher embracing a student living with disability.
Source: Inclusion Magazine
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From our last two articles on the origins of Christmas, we have learnt long before the tale of Jesus unfolded, diverse cultures found cause for jubilation amid the chill of winter, marking a celebration of light and birth during the darkest days. The roots of Christmas intertwine with ancient winter festivities that span centuries and continents.

This was the winter Solstice, astronomists would later explain. The winter solstice occurs in December, and in the Northern Hemisphere, the date marks the 24 hours with the fewest daylight hours of the year. That is why it is known as the shortest day of the year or the longest night of the year.

Winter solstice | Definition & Diagrams | Britannica

Centuries ago, in Scandinavia, the Norse ushered in the Yule festival, aligning with the winter solstice from December 21. This marked the turning point, as the sun’s return promised longer days and the gradual retreat of winter’s grip.

However, we are not about to take a masterclass in astronomy or European mythology. The core of our conversation is inclusive education and the spirit of Christmas. Since I profess Catholicism, indulge me in some biblical exegesis before we return to inclusive education and the spirit of Christmas.

Read also: The origins of Christmas – Part 1

Read also: The origins of Christmas – Part 2

The question often is whether Christmas is in the Bible. We have answered this question in our previous series on the origins of Christmas. What we are sure of is that there are accounts of the birth of Christ in the Bible. I will take St Luke’s account, not only because he was a physician but also because it helps us string the birth of Christ, the spirit of Christmas and inclusive education.

The initial four verses of Luke’s gospel constitute a single sentence in the original Greek, crafted in a sophisticated, scholarly, and classical manner.

However, in the subsequent sections of the gospel, Luke departs from the language of scholars and adopts the vernacular—the language of the ordinary person, the language resonating in the village and on the streets.

In doing so, Luke communicates, “This narrative possesses the requisite academic and scholarly qualifications, yet its purpose is to reach the common man.” Luke penned his account with the intention that people would comprehend Jesus, prioritising understanding over the admiration of his intellectual prowess and literary finesse.

Some people are born outcasts. Others have the label of “outcast” thrust upon them.
There’s a reason why the Christmas song talks about “certain poor shepherds.” They weren’t just broke, though the job didn’t pay much. They were outcasts, the lower rung of society. Here is the first verse of the Christmas carol.

First Noel

“The First Noel the Angels did say
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay
In fields where they lay keeping their sheep
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep
Noel Noel Noel Noel
Born is the King of Israel!”

Commentary on Luke 2:[1-7] 8-20 - Working Preacher from Luther Seminary

Even in the first century they wouldn’t have been highly respected. Even in today’s world, working with animals isn’t always a privilege. In Luke’s biography of Jesus, he tells us that among the first to hear about Jesus’ birth was a gathering of shepherds:

And in the same region, there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. (Luke 2:8)

Let’s not mince words, here. These weren’t sheep being raised to make sweaters for a local outlet. The ancient Jewish writings talked about the need to raise sheep—a lot of sheep—in preparation for Jewish sacrifices, particularly that of Passover in the Spring.

These shepherds would have been taking care of sheep that would eventually make their way to the temple, which during the Passover season would probably have more closely resembled a slaughterhouse. Talk about your dirty jobs.

We can only imagine their surprise when they are greeted by an angelic visitor. In Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, one can tell that Luke is concerned with giving his story a universal appeal that applies to all peoples, both Jew and Gentile and with emphasising the hope that Jesus gives to the unrespectable and dispossessed.

Unlike Matthew, who wrote his gospel intending to appeal to Jewish readers, Luke, with the understanding that Christ’s salvation is for Jews and Gentiles, writes his account of Jesus’ birth that can be understood by those outside the Jewish “loop.”

A contemporary American Christian should look at Luke‘s intended reader and see someone not unlike himself: not Jewish, born and raised worlds away from Israel, and separated by time and culture from the setting of this story, yet still drawn in by the universal appeal of God’s salvation. Luke also intends for his gospel to appeal to society’s disenfranchised and outcasts, aiming to give them hope in the salvation of Jesus.

Let me summarise what we have covered so far before we proceed to link Jesus’ birth, the spirit of Christmas and inclusive education.

Whether the story of Jesus’ birth occurred the way it has been told is outside the scope of our work. We have taken the story at its face value. Society has always had outcasts, the excluded, those living on the fringes of society. The shepherds were outcasts and excluded from social life. People living with disabilities are outcasts as long as they are not let into mainstream classrooms.

However, the birth of Jesus was announced first to them in the gospel according to St Luke. The birth of Jesus brought inclusion for the excluded. Similarly, the spirit of Christmas encourages acts of charity, kindness and togetherness. At the heart of Jesus’ birth in Luke’s gospel and the spirit of Christmas is inclusion. This is why inclusive education forms an important subject of discourse this season.

The State of Special Needs Education in Nigeria - CYBER NG

For public education in Nigeria, inclusive education advocates for the integration of students with disabilities into mainstream classrooms, promising profound and far-reaching effects. We will discuss the nuanced impact of inclusive education in Nigerian public schools, shedding light on its advantages, obstacles, and broader societal implications.

Benefits of Inclusive Education

Diversity and Empathy: Inclusive education cultivates a diverse and inclusive learning environment, fostering empathy, understanding, and tolerance among students from varied backgrounds and abilities. This prepares them for a society that embraces inclusivity.

Academic Achievement: The integration of students with disabilities into mainstream classrooms grants them access to high-quality education and tailored support. This inclusivity can enhance academic outcomes as teachers adapt their methods to accommodate diverse learning styles and needs.

Social and Emotional Growth: Inclusive classrooms offer opportunities for social skill development, meaningful relationship-building, and effective collaboration. Students without disabilities also benefit, from acquiring vital life skills and expanding their perspectives.

Positive Self-Image: Inclusion contributes to the development of a positive self-image and a sense of belonging among students with disabilities. When treated as valued members of the classroom community, their confidence and self-esteem flourish.

Challenges of Inclusive Education

Lack of Resources: The scarcity of resources, including specialised teaching materials, assistive technologies, and support staff, poses a significant challenge to inclusive education in Nigeria. Inadequate resources may hinder teachers from providing necessary accommodations.

Teacher Training: Many educators lack sufficient training to effectively support students with disabilities in mainstream classrooms. Bridging this gap through professional development programs is vital for the success of inclusive education.

Attitudinal Barriers: Societal attitudes and misconceptions about disabilities can impede the successful implementation of inclusive education. Overcoming these barriers requires raising awareness and fostering a culture of acceptance.

Classroom Dynamics: Managing diverse learning needs within a single classroom presents challenges. Teachers must balance addressing individual needs with maintaining an effective learning environment for all students.

Societal Implications

Promoting Inclusivity: Inclusive education in public schools serves as a powerful example, challenging stereotypes and fostering a more inclusive mindset. This can contribute to the creation of a society that embraces diversity and inclusivity.

Long-Term Impact: The benefits of inclusive education extend beyond the classroom, influencing graduates to embrace diversity and advocate for inclusivity in their communities and workplaces.

Legal and Ethical Considerations: Inclusive education aligns with international frameworks and conventions, including the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. By implementing inclusive practices, Nigeria fulfils its commitment to these legal and ethical standards.


In Nigerian public schools, inclusive education holds transformative potential, nurturing empathy, academic success, and social growth among all students. While challenges persist, the benefits outweigh the obstacles. By fostering an inclusive learning environment, Nigeria lays the foundation for a more equitable and inclusive society, celebrating and valuing the unique abilities of every individual.

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