It aimed to make sure the educational needs of children with disabilities were being met, and the education systems strengthened.
“Education is a basic human right and one of the most important drivers of development. It is a key factor in determining a country’s growth, and our own work has shown that without an education, families struggle to escape from inter-generational poverty.” Sightsavers CEO Caroline Harper
Training and human resources were key elements in the project. We promoted an inclusive education module for staff and supplied braille training, so teachers could learn how to support students with disabilities.
We’ve shown how this approach can be replicated across the country if ministries work together, and we’ve shared our learning on inclusive education in primary schools with the government of Senegal.
It wasn’t all plain sailing: at first, we found it challenging to convince parents to allow their children to attend school. Some didn’t think their children could learn, while others needed income so were sending their children out to beg. In some cases, local solutions were found to make sure families didn’t lose out. For example, one carer of two blind girls was offered a job as the school cleaner.
Another challenge was the amount of extra time teachers needed to prepare inclusive classes, an issue that is likely to increase as visually impaired children learn more complex topics. Also, the quality of braille teaching materials is generally poor, and large classes (as well as huge demand for school places for visually impaired children) make it challenging to meet the needs of all the children.
The children who are now attending school because of the project are achieving positive test results, and some are even outperforming their sighted peers.