The Kyaka II settlement in Uganda is home to thousands of children who have fled conflict in DRC leaving behind what was familiar to them and starting a new life in difficult conditions. And life does go on, most children will get to go to school in the settlement. Most children that are, apart from the children experiencing disabilities, who face exclusion and deep-rooted stigma within the community.
To ensure children experiencing disability can realise their rights to an education we launched a fantastic new project at the start of the year alongside our partners AWYAD and Embrace Kulture. We are incredibly lucky to have such amazing partners who share our vision and work tirelessly to help the children who need it most. Stephen Kabenge, Manager of Outreach and Behaviour Interventions for Embrace Kulture told us about the work he has been doing to counteract the culture of stigma in the settlement:
“There is a very negative attitude towards persons experiencing disability in the community and this leads to exclusion. People believe that the children experiencing disability bring a curse and bad luck to the villages. One village blamed a drought on a child with Down Syndrome and she was almost killed because of their fear.
And lot of the time these children will get neglected because it can cost more to look after a child with additional needs. For example, a child with Autism might be very picky about food and a parent has to keep up with this. It becomes very expensive, especially when most of the parents are low earners. We have to work really hard to challenge and change these beliefs. We work with parents to help them accept their child the way they are.
“No parent wishes their child to have difficulties but coming to terms with it brings them peace of mind.”
One of the most rewarding programmes Embrace Kulture run is the Best Buddy System. We pair someone with an intellectual disability with a child who doesn’t, and they meet up each month and take part in activities and learn new skills together. This is fantastic for both children because we focus on interaction. The children experiencing disability get to practice their communication and social skills and the other children get to understand disability and take this learning and understanding back into the community. This programme has been very helpful and has challenged so many mindsets regarding disability.
Every child deserves an education, so we work on changing the negative perception of disability in schools. Teacher training used to only touch on special needs education but at Embrace Kulture our Teacher Training Programme focuses on learning in a more inclusive setting. It isn’t easy for teachers because you have to deal with all the children in the classroom, regardless of their individual needs. But this is where I think we are making a great difference. By focusing on individual education plans and planning lessons to include different learning materials and techniques for different learners the teacher can make a big difference.
If a child is not learning the way a teacher is teaching, teach the child the way they can learn! If they can’t learn by listening to lectures or sitting at their desks then let’s go outside, sing songs and learn in a practical way.
My hope for the future is that special educational needs become easier to identify so that interventions can be put in place for the children who need it. My hope is that we can all live in a good and inclusive society.”
You can read more about our work in Uganda here
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