Inclusive education adds colour to children’s and parents’ lives
As more schools offer inclusive education for students with disabilities, more young people find hope and happiness
“Yellow,” said Kevin quietly, noting the colour of paper before moving to another object. Placing his magnifying glass closer to his nose, he whispers “Blue,” while peering at a crayon.
It’s not a game that other children play at school – but for this nine-year-old boy, identifying different colours inspires him to explore his surroundings, even though they appear blurred. Kevin’s limited eyesight has made it difficult for him to navigate the world.
At just two days of age, Kevin was rushed to hospital after a convulsion. “The doctor said he did not get enough fluid and it was affecting his brain,” recalls Kevin’s mother, Naniek. “He was hospitalized for 15 days.”
Nine months later, white layers had formed in Kevin’s right eye. The doctor suggested eye surgery, but Naniek and her husband, Budi could not bear to see their only son going through the procedure at such a young age. Kevin was five when he finally had the surgery, but by then, both his eyes were affected and the operation failed to save his eyesight.
When he was sent to a public primary school nearby, Kevin struggled to make friends and became anxious. “He cried most of the time after school because the other children mocked him,” said Budi.
Heart-breaking experiences like this lead some parents to keep children with disabilities out of school. But no child should miss out on education, which is why UNICEF works for all children – including those with disability – to have the same chance for learning. If you feel the same way, please support UNICEF.
Wanting to protect his son – and spare him further hurt – Budi decided to let Kevin stay at home for one year. But this would all change after Fitri, a teacher, visited the family.
Fitri had heard about Kevin and wanted to offer him a place at the madrasa where she taught. They had just started an inclusive education programme – made possible by a collaboration between UNICEF, the government and funders – so that children with disabilities could also enrol at the school. Wonderful things happen when people work together towards a shared goal! If you’d like to join UNICEF’s drive for inclusive learning, please will you donate today?
Knowing how Kevin had suffered at school before, Naniek and Budi were reluctant to send him to the madrasa. Fitri assured them that Kevin wouldn’t be the odd one out; there were other children with disabilities at the madrasa.
Little did anyone know that a wonderful friendship would flourish when Kevin met Syaiful, 12, another child with a disability. As he cannot move his lower body or right hand, Syaiful uses his left hand to do everything; and like Kevin, he had stayed home after being repeatedly rejected.
The two became inseparable, with Kevin being ‘Syaiful’s legs’ and in turn, Syaiful being ‘Kevin’s eyes’.
Knowing that inclusive education makes such a positive difference to children like Kevin and Syaiful, it’s tragic that only 37% of children with disabilities complete junior secondary education in Indonesia.
Many more children with disabilities need the chance for learning, knowledge – and friendship. Please will you help make this a reality through your donation today?
In addition to seeing changes in the children, Fitri has seen changes in her community. “People are more aware that children with special needs also have rights in education,” she said.
Neither Kevin nor Syaiful know that their school faced challenges on their path to accommodating them. “The first year was filled with learning, assessment and preparation,” recalls Darsiti, the inclusive education manager at the school, who is thankful for the training and workshops that she and her team have received.
Now, many more educators need specialist training to accommodate the needs of children with disabilities. Without it, both teachers and children are at a disadvantage. UNICEF is hoping that you will want to support by making a donation to this life-changing work.
“We learned new knowledge and skills, such as how to identify disabilities and learning barriers, develop individual learning plans, modify learning sessions to make them more inclusive, talk to children positively, and explore collaborations to support the children,” explained Darsiti.
Within only two years of offering inclusive education, the madrasa enrolled 44 children with disabilities. Kevin and Syaiful’s learning journey – and the school’s – is only beginning!
You can help set more children on the path to learning. When you donate to UNICEF, you help ensure that no child gets left out and left behind.