Crisis and Opportunity: Network Members Talk About Their New COVID-19 Realities – Miri Navon

Miri Navon is the Director of the Ministry of Education’s Division for Implementation of the Special Education Law

Miri Navon is the Director of the Ministry of Education’s Division for Implementation of the Special Education Law.

“These non-routine days during which the routine continues are not simple. But our mission goes on during these days, as well.
And it’s an important mission.
So I get up in the morning, get dressed in my work clothes even when I stay home, log onto my computer, open Zoom and start my day.

Many educational frameworks for children with special needs have closed, and students are now at home. At this point, the emergency must be managed: we need to continue providing treatments (which is not so simple when a caregiver needs to enter the home despite the Ministry of Health’s guidelines) and, on the other hand, adapt ourselves to the situation and invent remote learning. Many children’s situations are getting worse and worse now – within a few weeks and, soon enough, a few months at home, we’ll see more regression and more needs.

We have two huge tasks. The first is emergency-focused: to create an educational framework for special education students that will contain and assist them and be with them during this difficult time.

Our second task is to prepare for the next school year’s routine. It may seem far away now, but I know it’ll be upon us in no time.

So we split the two tasks – emergency and routine preparations – among our staff. My counterpart, who brings with her a great deal of special education experience, has taken on the emergency mission. I have taken on the mission to prepare for the new routine.

As part of my role in the Ministry of Education, where I serve as the Director of the Ministry’s Department for Implementation of Reforms in Integration and Inclusion, I have been leading the process of integrating special education students into schools in recent months. Usually, during this time, just before the end of the school year, we’re busy making preparations for the new school year. There’s a lot of work with many different processes and several steps involved in the months leading up to the first day of school on the 1st of September.

When the coronavirus hit, we found ourselves in an emergency situation; education frameworks closed and guidelines needed to be published by the Ministry of Education for schools and families. There are many challenges, needs and desires.

But the coronavirus will pass, the education system will resume routine operations and special education students will need frameworks to integrate into. So we don’t have the luxury to stop working on this task, either. If we stop the ongoing routine processes now – the analyses, the committees, the special education students’ placement processes –  we won’t be ready for the days that will follow the coronavirus.

So how do we go about getting all this done? I’m learning as I go. Because what we know and are familiar with is changing now. Connections with the parents, the personal and human contact, the ability to even get together and speak with one another in a room – we don’t have all that.

The new routine is not simple. Imagine what it looks like to examine kids’ needs from a distance, with ten people getting together on the internet. And imagine having an ultra-Orthodox family who has a child with special needs and no internet in their house. Imagine how a caregiver would send a video invitation to a Bedouin child if his family has no internet infrastructure.

Over the last few days, in MAOZ’s Network Whatsapp groups, I see and hear ideas from a lot of busy people coming from all directions. And I can take these ideas back to the Ministry of Education and bring up all sorts of issues that are hot right now. Education Network members have written a document compiling questions and thoughts regarding special education. I can be a connector who passes these questions and ideas up and I can help convey information. There won’t always be answers, there won’t always be solutions and we can’t be sure that we’ll have any forms of responses at all. But I can serve as a data-transferring pipeline.

The coronavirus will stop spreading. On the day after, we’ll have to provide solutions for children with special needs. Our mission is to be present for the here and now while also working to prepare for the here and there.”