Cambodian pre-schoolers with disabilities benefit from newly trained teachers
KAMPONG THOM PROVINCE, Cambodia, June 2012 – It’s an early morning in Stoung district, 212 kilometres north of Phnom Penh, and a class of pre- schoolers at Treng State Pre-School sing the chorus of a traditional Khmer welcome song. Among those actively taking part in the twice-a-day singing ritual, is 5 year-old, Phat Ni Ta. Although Ni Ta is unable to speak, she observes her classmates intensely, mimicking their mouth movements whilst firmly holding onto a small soft ball.
Key developmentsNi Ta is able to interact with her classmates in a child-friendly environment as a result of two key developments; a recently approved Policy on Education for Children with Disabilities and the development of an inclusive education training programme funded by IKEA with support from UNICEF and Handicap International Belgium.
The Policy on Education for Children with Disabilities was developed in 2008, with support from UNICEF, the Disability Action Council, and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. It aims to ensure the rights of all children with disabilities to equal education with their non-disabled peers.
The 5-day inclusive education training programme was conducted in November 2011 and February 2012. The training equipped 30 pre-school teachers; 20 school directors; and nine directors of Provincial Offices of Education (POE) in Kampong Thom and Prey Veng provinces, with basic knowledge on inclusive education and identifying children with disabilities in their communities. Following their training, the pre-school teachers received development materials specifically for inclusive pre-schools.
Even though, Mok Khon, Ni Ta’s pre-school teacher has not witnessed any significant developments in Ni, Ta’s speech since attending the pre-school, her physical ability appears to have improved. Khon believes this improvement is a result of her learning basic physiotherapy techniques during the inclusive training, and applying the newly acquired skills in the classroom.
“When Ni Ta first came to the pre-school, she wasn’t able to hold items in her hand. I’ve been conducting regular physiotherapy sessions in the classroom to strengthen Ni Ta’s weak arm, and now she can hold light items such as soft toys,” says Khon proudly.
Plans for the future
Later this year, the inclusive education training will be expanded to Battambang province and place greater emphasis on improving the quality of the overall programme. Additional support materials will be developed including, a communication board for deaf and mute children, to facilitate the interaction between pre-school teachers and students. And to provide pre-school teachers with additional support, follow-up monitoring visits to the pre-schools and technical meetings will take place.