A Chance to Education for All Children
Stefanesti, 25 September 2013 - Since 2003 parents and teachers from Stefanesti village refused to send their children with disabilities to auxiliary schools, which are residential institutions for children with special needs. One by one these children were included into the local school and assisted to learn.
"It was hard at the beginning, but we had the support of many partners who helped us in creating an inclusive and friendly environment. They are all our children," says Aurelia Bodiu, High School Principal.
Today out of the 327 students who learn in Stefanesti, 25 have special educational needs. Doina Vornicescu is studying in the twelfth grade and, although partially dependent on the wheelchair, has outstanding performance. Together with her peers she moderates the school Club "Trust" created at the initiative of students to learn through games, videos, and discussions how to help their peers with special needs.
"I want to graduate from the high school and then continue higher education to become a bookmaker or psychologist," says Doina. Her model is Ion Balan, a young man of 27 years, who is currently employed as an administrator in the school’s computer laboratory. Ion has a physical disability but managed to graduate from the high school and receive higher education. After, he came back to Stefanesti and got a job in the school. Today Ion is one of the school’s and community’s heroes when it comes to computers and information technologies. "Through my example I want to tell everyone that it is possible to succeed in life if you want, if you insist, and, of course, if you have the support of parents, teachers and peers," says the young man.
Due to an unfortunate accident Olesea Lungu, studying in the fourth grade, has no fingers at her left hand, but this does not prevent her to learn and attend the school crocheting club. "I want to become a seamstress. For that I have to work, to fight for life, for the future", says optimistically the girl. And when it is too difficult to do so, the teachers and colleagues are nearby. "We are all equal in this school and we feel like home," she adds.
According to the Ministry of Education, currently all Moldovan schools have the possibility to include children with special needs in education. In each district were created Psycho-pedagogical Assistance Services that assess children's needs and assist schools in developing Individual Education Plans for everyone.
"Opportunities exist, but it depends on the openness of teachers and school principals’ ability to create an inclusive environment adapted to individual requirements," said Liliana Nicolaescu-Onofrei, Deputy Minister of Education, during the visit to Stefanesti High School, where the second wave of the inclusive education campaign was launched.
Nune Mangasaryan, Representative of UNICEF in Moldova, noted that "every child has a right to have access to education and to a best start of life for future. Every child must remain in the community, together with her family. There aren’t children with the same capacity to learn. Everyone is different therefore schools must be accommodated to each and everyone’s needs. The School of Stefanesti is a good example to be followed in this regard."
The Inclusive education campaign "Come with me, this is your school, too" was launched by the Ministry of Education and UNICEF in April 2013. The Campaign was developed to support the implementation of the National Programme for the promotion of inclusive education in the Republic of Moldova for the period of 2011-2020.
According to UNICEF, in Moldova there are over 16,000 children with disabilities, of whom 3,500 under seven years old. In 2012 the first 39 children with disabilities and in 2013 – 77children with disabilities graduated compulsory education in mainstream schools.