Officials from Mali’s Ministry of Education and USAID praised the initiative by Sightsavers at the pilot’s launch event in Bamako on Monday.
The programme, which is funded by USAID, aims to address the problem that children with disabilities are likely to be out of school in Mali, and that those who are in school are in danger of dropping out. This is a widespread problem across the country as lessons fail to include children with disabilities due to lack of teacher training and the kind of basic resources that would allow them to learn in school.
It is hoped that lessons learnt from the initiative can be rolled out across the country so that more children with disabilities can gain an education.
The Ministry of National Education’s Permanent Secretary, Moumin Traore, said at the event: “We thank Sightsavers for implementing this project because we know there is a gap in this sector. We salute this project that we would like to be implemented in the whole county. We want you to know that our door is always open and we will see how we can support you whichever way we can.”
The United States Deputy Chief of Mission in Mali, Gregory Garland, said: “Children with disabilities are often without schools, and those who go to school do not always receive the necessary attention because of lack of teacher competence in inclusive education practices.
“It is therefore very important that the Ten-Year Program for the Development of Education (PRODEC 2), which is in the process of being drawn up, pays particular attention to the access of disabled children to education so that each can have a better future.
“USAID has implemented several inclusive education projects in Sikasso in 2014 and in Timbuktu in 2016. Today, in partnership with Sightsavers, USAID is supporting a new project targeting visually impaired children in Bamako as well as in the regions of Koulikoro, Ségou and Gao.
“We are aiming to make sure that each and every child with visual impairment has access to inclusive education. I highly congratulate Sightsavers and UMAV for initiating a project that will allow children with visual impairments to have a proper education. The US government is determined to fully support it.”
Sightsavers will work alongside communities and parent associations to raise awareness among local stakeholders on the educational rights and capacities of children with disabilities.
The programme aims to provide a high quality education for children with visual impairments and test approaches to educate them in different settings. Part of the strategy also involves keeping children with visual impairments in school and re-enrolling any who are likely to drop out by the next school year.
The programme will also develop early grade reading assessments for children with visual to use as a standardised tests across Mali. The University of Birmingham, which is based in the UK, will be partnering with Sightsavers to develop the test.
Sightsavers Country Director for Mali, Elie Kamate, said: “Children with visual impairments are being denied their right to an education in Mali because of poverty, social stigma and a lack of capacity in the education system. We are really pleased therefore to be working with USAID and the Ministry of Education to change this so we can send a message to the world about what is possible for children with disabilities if they are given the opportunity to learn.”