|© UNICEF video|
|In Moscow, Mrs. Ban Soon-taek visits students at School 142, which is at the forefront of a UNICEF-supported programme to include children with special needs in the classroom.|
By Masha Gorbachova
MOSCOW, Russia, 11 April 2008 – On 9 April, the wife of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Mrs. Ban Soon-taek, visited School 142 – a Moscow school that is at the forefront of a UNICEF-supported programme to include children with special needs in the classroom.
Mrs. Ban was accompanied by the spouse of the Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, Mrs. Nana Yakovenko, and UNICEF Representative in the Russian Federation Carel de Rooy, as well as Moscow Education Department officials.
During her visit, she met with the director and staff members of the school, visited classes for its youngest students and spoke to their parents.
Promoting inclusive education
School 142 – a large, modern building in the centre of Moscow – has been taking part in UNICEF’s initiative on promoting inclusive education since 2004. A regular secondary school, it also hosts about 25 children with various disabilities and special needs.
Anton, 10, has Down’s Syndrome. Before coming to School 142 he attended a special school, but according to his grandmother, Tatiana, he was not receiving an adequate education there.
“He didn’t read, didn’t write, he didn’t even know how to hold a pen. All he was doing at class was just sitting there playing or wandering around the room – but not studying,” Tatiana said.
Today, Anton knows the alphabet and is learning how to read and write. He has regular sessions with a psychologist, a speech therapist and other specialists. He wants to become an actor at a theatre for children with Down’s Syndrome.
|© UNICEF video|
|A student at School 142 in Moscow, during Mrs. Ban's visit to the inclusive school.|
Changing perspectives on disabilities
For decades, disabled children and adults in Russia were practically isolated from the society, which had almost no awareness of people with disabilities. Until recently, children in Russia with special needs had only two options: Study at home with a teacher for just for a couple of hours each week, or be enrolled in a specialized correction school.
Today, UNICEF Russia and its partner, non-governmental disability rights organization ‘Perspectiva’, are promoting inclusive education, which means the social inclusion of disabled children in school as well as the promotion of tolerance within the community.
UNICEF Russia and Perspectiva also hold seminars for teachers about the best ways to include children with special needs in their classrooms. In addition, they raise funds to make school buildings more accessible by adding ramps and elevators.
Starting early, dreaming big
However, getting into the building is just the first step. Nine-year-old Katya suffers from the effects of Infantile Cerebral Paralysis. Her mother, Galina, says the biggest challenge she faces is from other children’s reactions.
“I was very afraid they would be staring at her, pointing at her with their fingers, asking what’s wrong with her – as it usually happens every time she and I go out,” said Galina.
Katya understands how important education is and thinks about getting a university degree. She dreams of having a future profession as an animal rights activist – a wish that has every possibility of being granted, with assistance from UNICEF and its partners.
“We have to start early,” Galina said, “because if children get used to seeing the disabled right next to them, they will learn to be more kind, more tolerant and caring.”