A Child Excluded Unfairly by An Unfair Society
• In Moldova, children with disabilities, children living with HIV/AIDS or children of ethnical minorities (e.g. Roma) are often subject to discrimination. The inclusive education promoted by the Government of Moldova with the support of international organizations and the civil society, is a solution for these children, who want to attend the same school as their peers.
A bitter story with a happy twist and a safer future - is the story of Sergiu Antonov, a 15-year-old boy from the town of Iargara, Leova. This is not an extraordinary story, but for sure, it deserves to be known by people, as it motivates and shows that everything is possible.
Sergiu's health problems started when he was just a baby. Svetlana, his mother, noticed the first signs when he was 6-7 months old, when the baby could not sit at all. Not even when the boy was one year and a half, she saw any progress - Sergiu still could not walk by himself.
Svetlana decided to see a doctor, since she was extremely worried by her son’s problems. However, the doctors did not give her much hope and did not establish an accurate diagnosis. Later they assumed that her son’s problem had been caused by an adverse reaction to a medicinal preparation, which was given to Sergiu during the first days of his life. Thus, it affected the entire left side of the body, partially paralyzing it and later preventing the normal development of the child. After several procedures and massage sessions, Sergiu finally made his first steps. He was 2 years and 4 months then...
The local kindergarten did not accept him because he was "different" from other children, although by looking into Sergiu's serene eyes now, anyone can say he deserved a chance even then. He did not have severe mental or motor disabilities or retardation, which could have prevent him from attending a kindergarten. But fighting the system and prejudices in the late '90s was like fighting with windmills.
Instead of Going to An Ordinary School, He Went to a Boarding School
Later, he was not able to go to the local school either, again for fear of not being accepted. Thus, at his age of 8 years, Sergiu goes to the boarding school in Ialoveni, which teaches children with locomotor disabilities. He recalls that he was well cared for and even loved there, but the distance of 86 km, which separated him from the family, prompted his parents to look for another solution.
This solution proved to be the auxiliary boarding school in Sarata Noua, Leova rayon, although later the parents realized it was not the best solution either. Sergiu spent 4 years within the walls of this school. Although he came home more often, he was not happier at school. Svetlana began to notice differences in her son’s behavior.
He was looking unkempt, his new clothes were exchanged for older by elder students and the sweets sent from home "were disappearing" in record time. In recent years, he learned to smoke, to talk badly even in the presence of parents and was subjected to violence by his school mates. The regress at the level of communication and logical thinking was obvious. At the end of the VIIth grade, he no longer wanted to support his environment and started to run from home to Iargara more and more often. His mother was afraid that he would not want to go to school ever again and she was begging him to finish at least that school year.
A Chance for the Future
Prin intermediul unui proiect al CCF Moldova, susţinut de UNICEF, 48 de copii din localităţile raionului Leova, au fost reintegraţi în familiile lor şi în prezent ei frecventează şcoli generale sau profesionale.
Under a project implemented by CCF Moldova, supported by UNICEF, 48 children from villages in Leova rayon have been reintegrated into their families and are currently attending general secondary of vocational schools.
Sergiu is one of these 48 children and from the beginning of this school year his life story has gained a new color. He is a student in the eighth grade at "Lucian Blaga" High School in Iargara and every day he comes home, where his parents and his two younger siblings – Denis and Olga – are waiting for him.
"Since he’s been living at home, we no longer have problems with school. I am very happy with his success”, says his mother. The CCF mobile team member, Olesea Axenti, is delighted with the boy’s progress: "He has changed a lot, has a different look in the eyes - more open, more mature, and more ambitious".
In the new environment, he saw an opportunity to grow. After several weeks of school, he expressed his willingness to go to high school as well. Initially, he needed help in his inclusion through assimilation of the teaching material, which either had not been taught to him before, or he had not learnt it.
Under the reintegration program, based on an individualized education plan, he benefitted of 2 additional weekly Romanian and Mathematics classes, under the guidance of the school support teacher. He does not feel any marginalization or labeling by school mates or teachers, moreover, the school director Raisa Ivanov, assures us that Sergiu is always supported in his wish to catch up with the others.
Now, at his age of just 15 years, Sergiu is a fighter. One who fights not only to position himself in line with all teenagers - he is a fighter against the prejudices of the society he lives in. Every day he walks almost 2 km, carrying a bag that weighs at least 4 kg and bearing an unshakable will in his soul.
In Moldova there are thousands of children who, like Sergiu, look forward to seeing the doors of their boarding schools closed and going back to their family. They are often very vulnerable and need help in their integration into the community. UNICEF is always with them, ready to support and guide them towards a better future.