‘No child should be hidden, excluded or denied education’
The Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM) is implementing a two-year project with the goal to achieve improved inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood development and education. This is happening in Phalombe district, east of Malawi.
The Catholic Development Commission in Malawi (CADECOM) is implementing a two-year project with the goal to achieve improved inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood development and education. This is happening in Phalombe district, east of Malawi. The project is targeting 11 primary schools in this district. The project engenders collaboration among teachers, district level stakeholders and community members. The project is using capacity-building and community mobilization strategies to effect change. Some of the activities achieved so far include training of mother groups, training of ECD caretakers, training of health personnel, conducting learning review meetings, community trainings on preconception care, registration of under-five children living with different disabilities and monitoring of primary and community-based child centers. CADECOM ensures that strategic partnerships with Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, the Social Welfare Service and Ministry responsible for people with disabilities are effectively forged for effective implementation of the project.
It is often said that children with disabilities should not be left out and forgotten. As the adage suggests, it is therefore incumbent upon all stakeholders to spread the message of inclusivity in order to make all children part and parcel of community activity and society life.
As one way of enhancing the education of children with disabilities, CADECOM, with funding from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), is implementing an inclusive education project in Phalombe District.
Attentive- Learners during an inclusive lesson
At the heart of this project are special needs teachers that sacrifice their time and use all the faculties they have to reach out and make the learners, including those with disabilities understand in one class setting.
Andrew Chamgwera is a special needs teacher at Phaloni Primary School and a specialist who trains other teachers in inclusive education in Swang’oma zone, which covers 11 schools in 9 villages under Traditional Authority Chiwalo.
He says, children learn better when they are in an inclusive setting because they learn from each other and their teacher at the same time. He speaks of his role as a teacher in inclusive education:
“We teach using diversity means that accommodate all children, we offer the learners what they need to excel, not just in class but life in general. We also make sure that the school environment is conducive, especially for those with disabilities.“
He adds that teachers can not do their best without proper tools, some of which are made using locally found materials.
“We also find appropriate teaching aids and objects that makes it easy for those with disabilities to understand the lessons," he says.
Paul Raphael is another special needs teacher at Nazombe Primary School. He says being a teacher goes beyond being in the classroom
“We closely monitor the progress of those with disabilities, making sure that no one is left behind. Sometimes we assign the learners to assist each other with what might have slipped through during lessons and we make sure that they are interacting without any discrimination and isolation,” Raphael says.
To complement the efforts of these teachers, traditional leaders make sure that every child’s right to education is being respected by ensuring that no child with a disability is being locked or hidden in their homes.
Parents also play a big role since it is their duty to make sure that by all means their children are at school.
One such a parent is Janet Manyowa from Namikalo village. She comes with her son who has Learning Difficulties (LD) for classes; she expresses the joy that comes every time she takes her son to school.
Doing her part – Janet with her son in a classroom
“My son stopped speaking at the age of three; inclusive classes are making his life better since he is learning in a society like environment together with everyone else and he is no longer isolated. I am also learning conversional sign language together with my son; this has made our communication at home a lot easier,” says Manyowa.
Speaking after an inclusive lesson at Nazombe Primary School, OSISA education programme manager, Velaphi Mamba commended the teacher for being so patient with the learners more especially those with disabilities.
In addition, he emphasized that no child should be left behind.
“Let us all be ambassadors for the message that no child should be hidden, excluded or denied,” Mamba said.