About the online interactive platform that supports children with disabilities, their teachers,
Frequently Asked Questions
>> How many children with disabilites are there in Bulgaria?
The estimated number of children with disabilities and developmental difficulties in the country is about 32,000 though there is no complete data on the actual number.
>> How many of them go to school?
During the 2018-2019 academic year almost 22,035 children with disabilities and special needs attended mainstream schools and kindergartens. Despite the national efforts children with disabilities continue to be one of the most excluded and invisible groups in the society and they are at greater risk to remain outside the mainstream schools and kindergartens. Around 10,000 is the estimated number of children with disabilities who are out of school. Data also shows that many of the young people with disabilities aged 15-24 are not in employment, education or training.
>> How do they cope with distance learning introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic?
One in five children with disabilities and special needs is excluded from distance learning and support due to lack of devices and appropriate learning resources. The Ministry of Education and Science organized distance learning and teachers and students can access a number of free platforms and their online resources. However, children with disabilities and special needs require resources which are tailored to their needs. Such resources are scarce and not easily accessible at one place/ platform.
>> Why is it necessary to develop such a platform?
The goal of the platform is to provide educational resources adapted to the specific needs of the children, all materials gathered in one place which is something that hasn’t been done in the country so far. Building the platform will help children with disabilities and special needs to be fully involved in the learning process. Thus, they will learn and will be supported in a better and more coordinated way.
>> What makes the platform different from the existing materials?
The platform will be fully tailored to the needs of children with disabilities and will provide adapted educational resources gathered in one place – something that hasn’t been done so far in the country. Building the platform UNICEF will include specialists, teachers and parents to identify the specific needs of the children in the best possible way. It will improve the work of all people supporting the child – specialists, teacher, and parents. Apart from providing the necessary online tools it will also link together the family and the professionals.
>> What will the platform include?
The platform will include videoclips, guidance and other materials tailored to the needs of the children and will link the family and the specialists supporting the child so that he or she achieves more. Training guides, webinars for specialists, thematic webinars and discussiona for parents will also be available on the platform. They will be facilitated through a calendar and request a training option. The platform will have an option for live chat and online consultations for teachers, parents, and children.
>> Will the platform support only children?
The platform will support not only children with disabilities but also their families and the specialists who work with them. Collaboration and coordination between the family and the professionals supporting the child is challenging. Now, when schools are closed it is even more challenging as it requires much strict planning and coordination.
>> How will the platform support teachers and parents?
They will have available a lot of useful materials and in addition will be supported by specialists including through a live chat option. In this way online education will be more accessible to children with special needs and will reduce their isolation.
>> Should I pay to use the platform?
No, it will be completely free of charge.
>> When will the platform be ready?
The development of the platform involves several stages. The development and the adaptation of the resources as well as specifying and implementing the technical platform requirements is planned for Summer 2020. UNICEF’s ambition is the platform to become operational by Autumn 2020. Within the pilot period (30 months) the project will reach 3,000 children with disabilities, 500 professionals and minimum 200 parents. The project will support additional 300 children with disabilities and special needs, currently excluded from education, to access online education and support, incl. through provision of devices. The goal of the platform is to provide a long-term and sustainable support that will reach over time most of the children with disabilities in the country.
>> Which partners will UNICEF work with on developing the platform?
The key partners to UNICEF are the Ministry of Education and Science and its sub-structure Regional Inclusive Education Support Center Sofia. Creating the platform UNICEF will rely on specialists, teachers and parents to identify the specific needs of the children in the best possible way.