Nana Yassira: ‘I plan to become a role model for children with disabilities’
In Niger, children with disabilities are a particularly vulnerable and disadvantaged group when it comes to education.
Out of a total of 731,068 pupils in secondary school, 315,279 of whom are girls, the Maradi region has just 2,742 pupils, 937 of whom are girls (0.37%) with disabilities.
The education system’s general shortcomings are combined with problems associated with these children’s specific educational needs: non-participatory methods, a lack of adapted classrooms, teachers with little or no training in inclusive education, or a negative perception of disabilities among communities. Many parents indeed believe that having a disability means a child cannot study. The result is that many of these children find themselves marginalised and forgotten by society.
To give these girls and boys with disabilities the same learning and success opportunities as all other children, with support from the Norwegian government UNICEF has, since 2017, been implementing the regional project ‘Improving access to quality education for children in the Sahel’.Implemented in the Maradi region by the NGO Humanity & Inclusion (HI), during the 2020–2021 academic year alone this initiative has supported more than 5,000 pupils with disabilities, of whom more than 2,000 are young girls.
Nana Yassira, aged 16 and in year 5 of secondary school, is one of 696 girls from Maradi city to benefit from the project. At her school, CES Bagalam, there are 17 visually impaired and blind students.
’I was born visually impaired and come from a family of six (6) brothers and sisters. My parents did not attend school; they work as small traders to support our family’, Nana tells us.
It was her father who heard about the inclusive classroom at Maradi’s LOBIT primary school and enrolled there in 2005. Although the school is far away from home, Nana makes the return trip every day, nearly 8 km on foot, accompanied by her brothers and sisters and other children from her neighbourhood. ‘I want to show others that my disability is not a barrier to my success in society’,the young girl tells us, committed to achieving her dream.
In this region of Niger, as in many others, a large number of children with disabilities cannot go to school and end up begging, ‘because they are the ones who bring in the most money’, we are told. Nana was fortunate to have support from her family for her schooling, so she did not have to resorting to begging.
Today, more than ever, Nana is determined to pursue her dreams, ‘I plan to complete my studies and become a teacher, to help other children with visual impairments and become a role model for them’, she says.
To ensure children with disabilities receive better care, the project trained teachers at the schools in caring for pupils with specific needs and adapted teaching methods. Pupils, meanwhile, were given special school kits (Braille tablets, styli, Braille papers, Perkins Braillers, cubes, Cubarithms) and adapted computers, accessories and furniture (chairs and computer desks, etc.).