Breaking Barriers and Stirring Dreams

Fred, a 13-year-old pupil in Uganda, was born with a cleft lip and defective voice box that affected his speech development. He underwent corrective surgery while he was still a toddler, but his speech did not fully recover.  Because of these speech challenges, Fred found it hard to attend school and associate with other children. He recalls how they used to laugh at him, ridiculing him with different names because he was not able to clearly express himself.

“My classmates avoided playing with me because I wasn’t able to talk to them,” he explains. “They only wanted me to be part of the games in which they would make fun of me and laugh, and I disliked coming to school because of that.”

Fred reading with classmates

To reach children that carry such burdens and keep them from leaving school, Save the Children has implemented an “inclusive education” program that provides real learning opportunities for children with disabilities. The program strengthens teacher capacity to support children with different learning challenges – whether they be physical, behavioural, speech, hearing or attention retention. Teachers are provided with specific training on how to deal with cases like Fred’s, including how to incorporate positive discipline in the classroom and provide a safer learning environment.

Fred outside his school

Additionally, the program has also increased community awareness about inclusive education, which has led parents to understand the importance of sending their children to school — even those who face such challenges — and Enrollment  at school as increased.

“Fred’s parents are supportive and willing to help when issues arise,” explains Rebecca, Fred’s English teacher. “Communication is much better now with his parents and we’re able to work together to support his learning.” Fred is now thriving at school and has dreams to become a lawyer one day so that he can help children who suffer stigmas that prevent them for reaching their full potential.  “I now love going to school and I have friends to play with,” he says. “Mybest game is football where I am a midfielder.”


Inclusiveness and a Happier Classroom

By: Nan Kay Thi Win, Community Development Facilitator

Edited By: Su Yadanar Kyaw, Senior Coordinator, Sponsorship Operations

Ei Chaw is eight years old and was born with a physical disability that affects her mobility and makes daily tasks challenging. The oldest of three siblings, she lives with her family in a small village in Myanmar. Because her parents both work long hours in a rubber plantation near their home, Ei Chaw and her siblings are cared for by their grandmother.

Her parents did not understand how to deal with her disability, and she was treated poorly at home. Instead of teaching her to take care of herself, they did everything for her, making her very dependent on others. At school, her teachers did not recognize the needs of children with physical disabilities, and Ei Chaw was often left out of group activities.

Ei Chaw with her mother and younger sister Hnin

Fortunately, in 2018, Sponsorship programs came to the village and conducted teacher trainings and community awareness on “Inclusive Education,” a program to enable all children to learn together and receive support for their individual needs. The program objectives are to increase and improve access to education for the most vulnerable children, particularly children with disabilities and children from ethnic minorities in early grades.

“Before our training, children with disabilities were accepted in the regular classroom but were not provided with proper accommodations,” explains Ei Chaw’s homeroom teacher Daw Aye. “Our school did not have the facilities to accommodate this group of children, for example appropriately sized passageways and safety handrails, and we didn’t really know how to address the different needs of disabled children.”

The training provided teachers with various strategies and tools to strengthen their capacity to include all children in their lessons. “I learned that there is lot of value in promoting peer learning because children are such a super resource,” shares Daw Aye. “I am now confident enough to handle the challenges posed by children with disabilities in the classroom. I realise the power of positive feedback, how it can help children feel included, and motivated to learn.”

Inclusive education ensures that all children participate in a range of activities – academically and socially. Children work together, share their ideas and learn to accept one another. They learn that the right to a quality inclusive education is for ALL children, not just those who are easiest to reach and teach.

Ei Chaw with her mother and ready for school

Ei Chaw used to be quiet and shy, but now school is one of her favorite daily activities. Her favorite subject at school is English, and she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. Ei Chaw tells excitedly how she participated in a sport competition at school. “I signed up in picking up potatoes competition. My teacher encouraged me to do that. The competition included running, it was really difficult for me, but my friends cheered me during the competition. I was so happy.”