Unleashing Potential: Empowering Children with Disabilities Through Inclusive Education
UNICEF’s quest to promote and improve inclusive education and rehabilitation for children living with disabilities in Iran's less developed and hard-to-reach areas.
In the suburbs of Torbat-e Jam, nestled within the eastern province of Khorasan Razavi, Abolfazl’s father carries him and his brother Mohammad up the stairs where a dedicated social worker, Ms Tahereh Ramezani, eagerly awaits their arrival. Twice a week, she enters their home, armed with knowledge and a desire to help them review their school lessons. These remarkable brothers, living with a physical disability since birth, have found solace and support in the UNICEF-supported Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) and inclusive education programme.
Ms Ramezani, a seasoned CBR aid worker, reflects on her journey into this transformative programme: “In November 2022, we were informed that UNICEF is supporting a programme to provide remedial classes for children living with disability in less developed areas. We received three months of training supported by UNICEF. Then, we identified children living with disabilities and those out of school. In coordination with their teachers, we provide four hours of remedial classes for children each week.”
Gazing at her students, Ms Ramezani is filled with awe and admiration. “These children, brimming with potential, persevere despite the adversities they face. Diligent and determined, they yearn for additional support to unlock their true capabilities and acquire the skills necessary to thrive in life,” she adds.
Education remains an elusive dream for countless children living with disabilities as they confront persistent barriers on their path to learning and personal development. UNICEF, in partnership with the State Welfare Organization (SWO) and the Ministry of Education, is addressing the challenge by providing training for community-based rehabilitation volunteers. This collaboration aims to foster inclusive education and rehabilitation services for 270 children living with disabilities in the eastern provinces of Iran.
Meanwhile, in another corner of the city, a young student named Ali Asghar eagerly awaits the arrival of his teacher's aide, Ms Sommayeh Noori. At just seven years of age, Ali is a passionate reader, exuding a fervent love for learning. With eagerness in his voice, Ali shares snippets of his life, proudly mentioning the eight class awards he has earned. As he expresses his dreams, he says: “When I grow up in the future, I will become a police officer to apprehend wrongdoers.” Then, shifting his focus, Ali points to a page in his Farsi book, seeking guidance on a lesson he missed during his absence from school. He reads aloud: "Dear merciful god, I express my gratitude for granting us the ability to read and write..."
Ms Noori, an unwavering advocate for children's right to education, emphasises that no child should be left behind due to a disability. “Every child has a right to quality education, and disability should not force them to lag behind their peers,” she says.
This programme, made possible through funding from the European Union (EU), commenced in Khorasan Jonoubi and Khorasan Razavi provinces in December 2022 and is set to continue until mid-June 2023. In its first month, 60 volunteers underwent comprehensive training on education and rehabilitation strategies for children with disabilities, including effective engagement with families and the community. Equipped with the knowledge, each one of these dedicated volunteers is now committed to providing educational and rehabilitation services to three to five children each week in remote, hard-to-reach areas in these provinces.
Every child has a right to quality education, and disability should not force them to lag behind their peers.