Overcoming attitudinal an social barriers towards inclusive education

Teacher’s role to bring positive attitude among children

UNICEF
Arta teacher at Bregu Lumit
UNICEF/ALBANIA/2021
17 August 2021

At 51, Arta has had a long career as a schoolteacher at the kindergarten "Bregu i Lumit", an area on the dusty outskirts of Tirana. For more than 30 years, she has been teaching at both primary and preschool students. Many generations of children have been raised by her. She is a mother of three. One of her children suffers from an intellectual disability. But, Arta’s enthusiasm and passion to serve children are remarkable.

The kindergarten was rehabilitated recently by the municipality to accommodate 100 children, from both the Roma and non-Roma communities. Many years back, children in Albania followed a rigid curriculum that did not allow for creativity and learning through entertainment. Despite Arta’s willingness to create a positive environment, she lacked knowledge about different teaching methods.

Thanks to the support of UNICEF Albania, Arta is among 500 caregivers, and teachers in preschools who were targeted for inclusive education training, provided by the Ministry of Education, Sport and Youth. Preschool teachers spent a full week learning about inclusive education, where they were provided with effective training programs that include sufficient knowledge, skills, and experiences.

They learned how to build an interpersonal relationship with every child, and how teachers can encourage children to develop positive behavior. The training helped prepare teachers to work with all young children and increase their self-confidence regarding inclusion.

“What I learned made me more aware that I had to make sure that no child felt excluded, and especially during the pandemic situation. During the first phase of isolation, we were in contact through what’s app with all parents and provided support and advice”, Arta stated of her training.

Speaking of the moment of happiness in her carrier she mentioned: “We had a child in our kindergarten that was not able to speak. His parents were worried and didn’t know what to do. They were poor and unable to deal with the case”.

“I drafted an inclusion plan by examining the child’s interests, what he liked and what he was good at. We all got involved and used all the materials to promote communication, language, and creativity. The child received personalized support. And after months of hard work, we did it. He could speak and was able to follow the class.” Arta’s eyes filled with tears.

The Director of the kindergarten, Mrs. Dhurata, was also part of the training on inclusive education. “Embracing the philosophy of inclusion is challenging, but it’s not impossible,” she stated. We learned that inclusion doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a long process and it requires that teachers make changes to their work-life”.

“Teachers work hard to provide a welcoming atmosphere to all children regardless of their ethnicities, or social and economic status. They have learned how to build a personal connection with the kids, and this helped increase class participation and enthusiasm.”

“We are trying to establish a network among parents in the community to help disseminate information on parenting practices and messages” concludes the pre-school director. 

UNICEF in Albania continues to advocate and promote the concept of inclusion, integrating children with disabilities into school and continues to work closely with the Ministry of Education, Sport and Youth through its commitment to providing education for all children