Inclusive Education

Inclusive education for children with disabilities

The Government of Tanzania has adopted a national disability policy, which states that “The government in collaboration with stakeholders shall provide a conducive environment for inclusive education that takes care of special needs of disabled children.” Children living with disabilities have a right to learn. It is up to all of us to accommodate children with special needs in education systems. Here in Tanzania, great progress has been made in promoting the right to education for children with special needs, but our collective efforts need to be renewed if the policy is to become a reality for all.

Recently, I participated in mobile clinics for the disabled being held by the 'Karagwe Community Based Rehabilitation Programme' (KCBRP) which is run by the Anglican Church, in north western Tanzania, on borders with Uganda and Rwanda. FoCT will be helping to fund these clinics throughout 2011, with support from one of its partners, 'Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope' (ELoH).

KCBRP has done a great job in promoting the rights of disabled children, including their right to basic education. I met Joshua last week, at one of these clinics. Joshua is 7 years old and is chronically physically disabled. Mentally, he is bright as a button. This week, he is starting school!

Children eatingThere is only one primary school in the Lake Victoria zone of Tanzania which is specifically designated to cater for disabled children, and naturally it is under a lot of pressure. It is over 150kms from Joshua’s home, but since this is the only school with a conducive learning environment for him, this is where Joshua is going to stay for the next 7 years. His parents were last week struggling to come up with the $20 required to pay for Joshua’s travel to his new school, so FoCT was able to assist so that Joshua could start his new school on time.

FoCT has been supporting Joshua’s new primary school, called 'Mugeza', since 2007. We have helped to finance the construction on a new recreation/dining hall for the kids, as well as a new computer centre to help them gain new IT skills. The conditions at the school are basic, but there is a great sense of joy amongst the 135 disabled kids who study there, despite the hardships they face.

The newcomers, like Joshua, obviously miss their families a lot, but the older kids help comfort them and settle them in.

Many of the kids at Mugeza can’t go to the toilet by themselves, and inevitably there is a lot of bed wetting, which causes a major problem since the mattresses used out here are all sponge. FoCT has teamed up with the local NGO, Izaas, to provide mattresses which are covered with a waterproof plastic cover, so that they can be easily cleaned and maintained. These are the practical issues one has to address if 'inclusive education' in Tanzania is to become a reality.

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