Disability no longer an obstacle to education in Krinding
Geneina, September 2012. Accessing education is a challenge for many children living in Darfur, but especially for youngsters living with disabilities. Not long ago, the majority of children with disabilities living in the displacement camp of Krinding in West Darfur were not attending school at all. Many of those who were in school said they felt isolated and struggled to learn.
Fawzia Abker Arbab, an eighth grade student who is unable to walk unaided, relies on a bicycle and help from her cousin and friends to get to Masakani Basic School each morning. Until recently, going to the lavatory there also required the help of others, which Fawziafound embarrassing. The attitude towards our pupils with disabilities has changed a lot since the campaign to raise awareness among teachers, students and wider community.
Meanwhile, in the school’s grade seven class, Adam Jumma Galib was also finding life at school hard – as he has a hearing impairment. None of his classmates or teachers could easily understand him, making it hard for Adam to follow lessons and leaving him feeling marginalised.
UNICEF passionately believes in the right of all children to have access to an education, regardless of their abilities. To this end, UNICEF went into partnership with the State Ministry of Education (SMoE) and Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) to support a number of initiatives at Krinding, east of the town of Geneina, to help children with disabilities into education. These projects included using radio programmes to raise community awareness about disability issues, helping parents have a better understanding of their children’s special needs, providing teacher training and psycho-social support to children living with disabilities.
Masakani Basic School, which has 2,300 pupils and was set up in 2004 in the wake of an influx of displaced persons to Krinding was chosen as the first school to benefit as it has the highest number of students with physical disabilities.
The installation of a new, accessible lavatory has made a significant improvement in life at school for Fawzia, and other pupils with physical disabilities, providing them with greater dignity and self-reliance.
“The restroom for children with disabilities they built in the school has given us easy access – we will not suffer as we did in the past,” said Fawzia, clearly delighted.
Adam is thriving too - as are the other children with hearing impairment at Masakani. One of the teachers has been trained in sign language, which is enabling hearing impaired pupils to remain in an inclusive classroom and still follow the lessons.
Mohammed Abdel Aziz, a teacher at Masakani, is seeing a big difference.
“The attitude towards our pupils with disabilities has changed a lot since the campaign to raise awareness among teachers, students and wider community. Before, teachers and children would stop and stare at the children who had special needs. Now the school is more accepting of these differences, we are taking less notice of them and the children with disabilities feel more included.”
To date, the joint programme between IRW, SMoE and UNICEF has improved access to education for 19 children with disabilities at Masakani Basic School and support to an additional 409 children with disabilities, their families and teachers within the Geneina area.
Maha Damaj, a UNICEF consultant who is assessing the needs of Sudan’s children with disabilities, said: “Ensuring the rights of, and providing better services for children with disabilities will pave the way to a better life for them. At UNICEF Sudan we believe all children are worth investing in.”