A School for All Students: Aulia’s Story
After receiving a training on inclusive education from 1 in 11 Partners, primary schools in Bone have taken steps to ensure all children can attend and participate in activities.
BONE, Indonesia – It’s 8 A.M. on a Wednesday morning at the Madrasah Ibtidaiyah (MI) Nurul Ulum primary school in Bone, Indonesia, and the students in grade three are ready to start their game of kasti ball, a sport similar to American baseball. They file out of their classroom into a sunny courtyard in the middle of the school where they form two lines.
Behind the students is their teacher Pak Anzar, who carries 9-year-old Aulia outside. He carefully places her in a chair at the front and the group begins their warm-up stretches.
Aulia was born with a physical condition that left her paralysed from the waist down. To assist her, the teachers help her to move around the school. They also ensure that her desk is near the door of the classroom, where her mother Dar sits outside.
After finishing their stretches, the students split into two teams and line up on opposing sides of the courtyard. As they each take a kasti ball and prepare to start the game, Pak Aznar sets up a device in front of Aulia made of a tube that rests diagonally atop two wooden stands.
During a training for teachers on inclusive education, Pak Anzar learned how to involve children with disabilities in school, particularly in sports activities. Inspired by the training, he built the device and adjusted the rules of kasti ball so that Aulia, too, could participate.
“I wanted Aulia to be involved as well,” said Pak Anzar, displaying one of the modified game balls that he and the students created together. “It’s my responsibility to reach all students.”
As Pak Anzar hands Aulia the ball, children in other grades peer out the windows of their classrooms and look on. In the background, a banner reading “Towards Inclusion” hangs from the green and yellow concrete walls adorned with paintings of flowers and Islamic scripture.
“I wanted Aulia to be involved as well,” says Aulia's teacher, Pak Anzar. “It’s my responsibility to reach all students.”
Aulia drops the ball down the tube and watches closely as it steadily travels down and out the other side, hitting another ball placed in the middle. A collective cheer erupts from the students who clap as Aulia reveals a slight but proud smile.
Dar smiles as she watches on with the other mothers. “Without it [the device], Aulia would be sad by herself,” she said. “She can play with her friends and feel useful.”
Hope and Determination for a Better Future
Back home after class, Aulia sits in the living room with her older cousin Annisa and her friends from school as she works on an assignment for her Arabic language class. Despite Aulia’s disability, there aren’t any modifications present in their home.
From an early age, her mother says, Aulia was always determined to make it on her own. “She didn't want to use the handlebars in the house,” recalled Dar. “She just wanted to crawl.”
That innate determination is why she wants Aulia to go to MI Nurul Ulum rather than a special school. “In this school, she can push herself. It’s good for her morale,” she explained. For Aulia, it’s a chance to attend school every day with her childhood friends from the neighbourhood. “I like learning here and playing with my friends Fatiah and Haila,” she said.
Before 2015, the MI Nurul Ulum primary school did not accept children with disabilities. “We would always refer them to schools for children with special needs,” said Ibu Narwah, the school’s principal.
While the school has only recently taken steps to become more inclusive, it now supports ten students with physical and intellectual disabilities. The teachers here received two separate trainings on inclusive education led by 1in11 partners, which Ibu Narwah says has helped them to better understand and involve all children.
Ibu Narwah has noticed significant progress made by her new students, including Aulia, who has become more motivated and self-confident. As an example, she mentions a Quran reciting competition that was held a year ago at the school. Aulia came in second place.
She remains committed to making her school inclusive and says she plans to use a portion of the school’s budget to build a ramp as well as grab bars in the bathroom.
For Dar, Aulia’s education is one of the most important parts of her life. Above the doorway of their living room hangs a picture of her daughter graduating from kindergarten (TK), surrounded by family and teachers. A collection of Aulia’s backpacks line the wall, which Dar saves after Aulia completes each grade.
“I don’t want her to stay at home, I want her to be smart,” her mother said, wiping away the tears that begin to fill her eyes. “I hope she can bring good things to our family and have a better life than us.”
Like most children her age, Aulia’s idea of what she wants to be when she grows up often changes. But today her reply is decisive. “I want to be a doctor,” she said.
“I don’t want her to stay at home, I want her to be smart,” says Dar, Aulia's mother. “I hope she can bring good things to our family and have a better life than us."
Pak Akmal, the supervisor for the district’s schools, has delivered the inclusive education training to teachers in Aulia’s school as well as in 22 other primary schools in Bone. He believes all children should be able to attend school with their peers. It’s every child’s right to access education,” he said. “They need to be able to socialise with other children.
The work to ensure that the schools in his district are inclusive is especially personal for Pak Akmal. “My 7-year-old nephew has a speech disability. He is happy when he goes to school,” he said. “All children have dreams that can be realised through education.”