When children with disabilities have a strong educational foundation in their early years, they are more likely to progress onto primary school.
In our early childhood development project in Malawi, we work with partners to support more than 40 pre-schools. Through this project, young children with disabilities attend mainstream pre-schools where they can learn, play and develop alongside their peers.
Here, three people involved in the project share their stories and the impact that inclusive education has had on their lives.
“I have been teaching since 2004. Currently, I teach at the community-based childcare centre in Makwangwala in Malawi. What makes me happy is when the children I teach go on to primary school and do very well in their class. This is what motivates me.
“We had some training from Sightsavers where we learned how to take care of children with and without disabilities, so we could teach them all at once. This helped me, because at first, I couldn’t manage to teach the children with and without disabilities all together. But after the training, I know how.
“Children with disabilities face challenges in and outside of school. Outside, they are discriminated against. In school, girls especially need help when they get older. During [their] periods, girls with disabilities need assistance with their pads. To be in school with their friends, they need this help, or they end up just staying home. But when children come to school, their lives slowly change.”
“When my son Enock was young, he caught malaria which ran to his brain. After this, we didn’t have that hope that he would one day go to school.”
Chikumbutso worried for his son’s future. But his outlook changed when Enock began to attend an inclusive school.
“When he went to school, he started to make friends. He became sociable. There is a big change in him: he learned this at school. When he’s with his friends, he is so filled with joy. He is free to do anything, as everyone else would.
“Now that Enock goes to school, there are a lot of things transforming and there is a lot of success. He knows who he is and that he can do anything.”
“I realised that my grandson, Jonathan, had an eye problem,” says Rose. “When he went to school, the teacher identified his disability. He couldn’t see the same as his friends and the teacher explained this to me.”
After speaking to the teacher, Rose started sending Jonathan to an inclusive school. “I saw changes in him, even at home. He was becoming active, he knew how to read, he was playing football with his friends and was riding on the seesaw. He was also easily following with instructions that I gave, like ‘sweep here’. He was able to do this.
“Through the school, he can now read… when you give him a book, he opens the page and reads. And I know that there is indeed a change and his education is progressing well.”
All images © Sightsavers/Homeline Media