|© UNICEF Cambodia/2011/Bona Khoy|
|Soun Vanna, 13, is in grade six at Wath Prasat School. She is partially deaf and has found it difficult to keep studying this year.|
By Bona Khoy and Carly Witheridge
PREY VENG PROVINCE, Cambodia, 4 November 2011 – Soun Vanna, 13, sits quietly amongst her classmates while she completes the morning’s assignment. Partially deaf, Vanna attends classes like any other child, receiving support and encouragement from her teachers at Wath Prasat School.
Currently, there are over 300 children living with disabilities in Prey Veng’s Kampong Trabek district, and 16 of them, like Vanna, attend Wath Prasat School, studying right alongside their non-disabled classmates.
“I have difficulty hearing what my teacher explains,” said Soun Vanna, who is now studying in grade six. “I feel uncomfortable when the teacher takes more time to explain things to me as it means the other students have to wait.”
Thanks to a recently approved Policy on Education for Children with Disabilities, Vanna’s teachers are now getting the training they need to ensure that she can make the most out of her educational experience.
With support from UNICEF and the Disability Action Council, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport developed the National Policy on Education for Children with Disabilities in 2008 to ensure the rights of all children with disabilities to equal education with their non-disabled peers.
In 2009, UNICEF supported the development of an in-service basic training manual on inclusive education for children with disabilities on close consultation with the Disability Action Council. As a result, 1,420 teachers and provincial and district education officers were trained on teaching in classrooms where there are children with disabilities. The training was conducted over three days for teachers from selected districts in six UNICEF-supported provinces.
|© UNICEF Cambodia/2011/Bona Khoy|
|Grade six school children at Wath Prasat School.|
Since the national policy was implemented in Wath Prasat School, teachers and the head master are working together to identify children with disabilities in communities, encouraging them to enrol, creating friendly classes, and applying special teaching methods that they received in their teacher’s training.
Kong Keam, the school’s deputy head master, highlighted the special measures being taken to ensure disabled students are provided with a quality education. “At the beginning of every enrolment year, teachers report on how many children with disabilities have been enrolled, as well as the kinds of disabilities the children have,” he said. “I pay a personal visit to each class to check the seating arrangement for children with disabilities and to verify whether teaching methods for these children are complying with the curriculum”, he added.
Building a parental network
Encourage the support of parents has also been key to successfully implementing the policy in the school.
“We have encouraged children with disabilities to tell us about their family situation,” said Kong Keam. “We ask them where they live, and then go to meet their parents.”
During these meetings, Kong Keam and the teachers explain to the parents how much their support contributes to their children’s success with learning. With the right awareness, parents can help monitor the learning activities of their children at home. They can also help to ensure that their children regularly go to school, and are advised to inform the teacher if they are sick.
UNICEF continues to support the strengthening of government capacities and systems for inclusive education. The policies on education for children with disabilities, as well as those related to bilingual education, are fully incorporated into the Child Friendly Schools framework and policy. In addition, innovations related to inclusive pre-school education will be piloted and documented, while continued support will be provided to in-service teacher training on children with disabilities.