Madagascar, 18 July 2013: In Madagascar, 'back to school' means including those left out
By Daniel Timme
Children and teachers alike are benefitting from efforts to address school exclusion in Madagascar.
ANTANANAVIRO, Madagascar, 18 July 2013 – Like any 7-year-old, Clarisse should be in school, but she isn’t – although it’s not a matter of choice. Her mother explains that Clarisse was excluded from attending class because of her disability.
In Madagascar, more than a million children are not in school. There are many reasons behind school exclusion, but children with disabilities, like Clarisse, are particularly marginalized – only 11 per cent of children with disabilities are enrolled in school.
“I had already sent her to public school, but other pupils felt disturbed,” Clarisse’s mother says. “So it was decided that she has to go.”
Regardless of why a child might be excluded from school – whether because of a family’s social status, economic situation, a child’s disability or any other reason – the idea of inclusive education is to allow each child to discover the maximum of his or her individual abilities and competencies through learning in the classroom.
Since 2008, UNICEF Madagascar has supported a variety of activities to bring children back to school. UNICEF Education Officer Minako Morimoto explains the approach of inclusive education: “It consists of giving each child access to elementary-level schooling and keeping them in the system to complete the education cycle.”
Teachers also receive training specifically for working in an inclusive environment.
In Madagascar, a process was initiated for pupils and their parents to identify neighbourhood children who should be integrated into the school system. Pupils were asked to draw a ’map of exclusion’ of their village, while parents discussed measures to bring excluded children back to school.
Clarisse’s mother cried tears of joy when her daughter was invited to return to the classroom. “It was a wonderful moment, because I knew that my Clarisse would be treated like all the other children,” she says.
Rachel, another mother of a child with a disability, has seen remarkable changes in her daughter since sending her child back to the village school. “Before, she was not able to speak,” she says. “Now she is beginning to express herself.”
One of the teachers who benefitted from inclusive education training is Chalotte Ravaomiaranaly. “The training was very helpful,” she says. “It showed us how to work with children with different abilities, but the methods can be applied to any child. This makes my job much easier.”
Another important aspect of inclusive education, says Ms. Morimoto, is that children learn to live together despite their differences. For this reason, UNICEF Madgascar also supports a local dancing club, Kilokolo, which organizes inclusive dance workshops where children with and without disabilities can dance and play together. In 2012, Kilokolo gave a colourful dance and puppet theater performance during celebrations of the Day of the African child. This year, the group performed for the audience at the 31 May launch of the State of the World’s Children report in Madagascar.
Inclusive education is an integral part of the ‘Education for All’ initiative. And while UNICEF and its partners have made great strides, many challenges remain. In order to ensure continued progress, all participants in the education cycle – parents, teachers and the community – need to contribute, so that children living with disabilities receive the education they deserve.
To learn more, visit UNICEF Madagascar’s national study on school exclusion and improving inclusion.
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