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Sightsavers blog

Teachers for all

Sunit Bagree, July 2013

Teachers with the right training can make a huge difference

Millions of children with disabilities are currently excluded from education opportunities because of a shortage of teachers trained to support them.

We think it’s vital that this is addressed to meet the goals of Education for All, an international initiative aimed at bringing the benefits of education to “every citizen in every society”, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

Globally, 93 million children are estimated to have moderate to severe disabilities – and many of these children are out of school. In Teachers for all: inclusive teaching for children with disabilities, a paper I’ve co-authored with Ingrid Lewis for the International Disability and Development Consortium, we look at the need for more, well-trained teachers to ensure children with disabilities have access to education. The paper was produced to tie in with the Global Campaign for Education’s Every Child Needs a Teacher campaign during 2013.

Watch the video below for my introduction to the paper:

“The thing I enjoy most about my job is being able to help children with special needs.”

Teachers with the right training can make a huge difference in giving children with disabilities access to a quality education. Itinerant teachers travel around numerous schools and homes to give support and advice, while other teachers are classroom-based.

Harriet Nyendwoha, an itinerant teacher, says: “There are many disabled children who are helpless, lying in villages, hidden in houses. People have such negative attitudes towards them. I wanted to make changes in people – the thing I enjoy most about my job is being able to help children with special needs.”

Harriet trained by attending workshops in how to teach children with special needs the skills they need to live independently. She was also trained in guidance and counselling for parents, and awareness-raising for schools and communities. She regularly visits 18 schools to identify children who may need support, and does home visits too.

“I use the resource room (built with support from Sightsavers) to train the other teachers. Three have had formal special needs training, and are now officially support staff. But many other teachers have picked up skills in how to support the special needs children, as they have developed an interest. It is a great thing as children are able to learn from one another.”

Harriet Nyendwoha is an itinerant teacher.
Harriet Nyendwoha, an itinerant teacher

Children are able to learn from one another

As well as itinerant teachers like Harriet, classroom teachers also play a vital role in supporting students with disabilities. In the last three years, health and welfare charity Leonard Cheshire Disability has provided training to over 6,300 teachers in 15 countries, including Kenya, Sierra Leone and India. The training covers a range of themes: classroom management, assessments, creating individual learning programmes, and using appropriate teaching and learning materials.

Taking part in this teacher training developed Mukwana Martin’s confidence and skills in teaching children with disabilities at his school in Nkokonjeru, Kenya. One of his pupils, Robert Ibombwe, is physically impaired and uses a wheelchair. “I have discovered that Robert and other disabled children have the same potential as non-disabled children,” says Mukwana. “What is important is that teachers like me support the children to develop that potential. The biggest challenge for most teachers is that they are often not exposed to children with specific needs, as well as not having adequate training in inclusive teaching methods. After I attended inclusive education training I have been able to understand Robert better and draw him closer to me through continuous counselling.”

By Sunit Bagree, former policy advisor for education at Sightsavers

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