Palestinian children with disabilities are determined to learn
The most invisible and vulnerable children in society are discovering ability beyond their disability
HEBRON, State of Palestine, 2 June 2017 – For 12-year-old Wi’am, attending the Blind Charitable Society School is a blessing.
“I am so happy that I am able to learn using Braille,” says Wi’am as she places her tiny fingers over raised dots to read her Arabic class. “My favourite subject in class is English because it helps me communicate with the world,” she adds with pride.
The Blind Charitable Society School serves 67 Palestinian students living with impaired vision in the Hebron Governorate. Established in 1996, the school helps students like Wi’am and others to grow and develop to their full potential.
“I hold awareness-raising sessions for parents of children with disabilities to make them better understand the rights and the services that their children are entitled to,” says Safaa, Blind Charitable Society School Principal. “All children have the right to be treated with dignity,” she adds.
The vulnerabilities facing Palestinian children living with disabilities are often overlapping, leaving many children at greater risk. Children living in rural areas have less access to basic services including educational facilities. With funding from the community, the school has secured a bus to transport students to school on a daily basis to overcome this challenge. The children living in remote areas can stay in the school dormitory.
“Out of 67 students in our school, 13 who come from villages stay in the dormitory,” says Safaa.
Inspiring children counter stigma and discrimination
Like all children, those with disabilities have many abilities, but they are often discriminated against and excluded from society, and they lack support. This leaves them among the most invisible and vulnerable children in their society.
Hammam, 10, was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of three. A surgery meant to treat the tumour left him blind.
But Hammam is an inspiration not only to his community, but the whole world. His determination made him the top student in class. His visual impairment never stopped him from dreaming and continuing to learn.
“Religion is my favourite subject in class,” Hammam says with a smile. “I dream of becoming an Imam when I grow up.”
A 2016 UNICEF study on children with disabilities in the State of Palestine shows that the stigma surrounding children with disabilities is very strong and pervasive.
“That stigma is prevalent in the community and in some instances even inside the home,” says Kumiko Imai, Chief of Social Policy at UNICEF. “Yet, we witness transformational results when children benefit from appropriately tailored health care and inclusive education systems, like Wi’am and Hammam do.”
Wi’am, who is living proof that children like her can further develop their society, spoke during the local launch of the UNICEF study.
“I was a bit scared when I spoke at the opening of the launch,” says Wi’am, who was sitting next to Palestinian ministers and high officials. “After ending my speech, and as I heard the audience clapping for me, I realized how I can transform this world,” she says.