Education for every child, especially the most disadvantaged
UNICEF supporting children with disabilities to continue learning
After three years of irregular attendance, 10-year-old Ishan has finally returned to school in Thanamalwila, in Sri Lanka’s Uva Province. Ishan is unable to use a standard desk and chair due to his physical disability - which has worsened over the years. But today, he is comfortably seated in his classroom, on a special chair provided by UNICEF, to accommodate his physical condition.
“I am happy that my child can finally re-start schooling,”
Ishan’s grandmother and guardian, Dulika (49) wipes away tears of joy - a joy shared by an entire community. Indeed, it took a village, including coordination between the local school and social services, to ensure Ishan’s wellbeing and integrate him back into school.
Ishan’s particular vulnerability was initially identified by the local social services. “We knew about Ishan’s disability for a while, but the condition worsened over the past few years. At the same time, he suffered a setback as his parents moved out of the village leaving him with his grandmother.” Explains Ms. Wijitha (47), the social service officer who led the effort.
“The economic crisis has made things worse. Ishan’s grandmother, a day-wage earning labourer, is unable to find regular work. This prevented Ishan from accessing healthcare – as she does not have the means to take him to a hospital for a proper diagnosis.”
“But for us, it was important to bring normalcy to his life and ensure he goes to school. Working with the relevant authorities and with the support from UNICEF, we managed to customize this chair to accommodate his special requirement whilst taking his physical growth into consideration. I am pleased that Ishan is finally back at school,” says Wijitha proudly.
Since early 2022, Sri Lanka’s economic crisis has impacted the livelihoods of many families limiting their access to basic healthcare, education, and nutritious food. This has especially worsened conditions for children with disabilities and families with infants.
With the aim of easing the burden of families and children facing extreme vulnerabilities, UNICEF provided immediate assistance to 88 families with infants and children with disabilities in the Uva Province. This included medication, supplementary food for infants, equipment for disabled children, and transportation to enable them to travel to the clinic for their health checks.
The timely and critical support has helped vulnerable children like Ishan to overcome their immediate setbacks and restore hope and a semblance of normalcy in their lives during this difficult period.
Class teacher, Mr. Sampath (35), is positive about integrating Ishan back into his grade. He understands the importance of providing special attention and personalized learning amidst the mainstream classrooms to help Ishan catch-up on lost learning. Having set up a desk that accommodates the height of the new chair, Sampath explains the support plan for Ishan.
“As his school attendance has been erratic, Ishan requires a tailored catch-up plan which is being designed with the inputs from the principal, section head, and myself.”
“This will involve extra hours of learning to help him to reach the same level as his classmates. The plan will naturally involve his grandmother, to help oversee his homework and to bring him for the extended learning after school.”
Dulika affirms her support, “I will work with the school and support Ishan with his studies. He has been under my care for the past 2.5 years and I will continue to take care of him. He loves to go to school, and he is very talented and good in all subjects.”