It is universally recognised that education is a crucial determinant of individual empowerment and economic standing; in fact, it’s a vital human right.
Every girl and every boy – no matter their ability, should have the right to a quality education so that they can have more chances in life; including employment opportunities, better health and also being able to participate in the political process. Yet recognition is not reflected in the high number of children, particularly disabled children, out of school in Africa.
Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
The key word there is, ‘inclusive.’
Research shows that approximately 9% of school aged disabled children in Uganda attend primary school compared with the national average of 92%. This is a shocking statistic – EVERY child has the right to education – but evidently, for many disabled children in Uganda, this right is not being realised. Cue AbleChildAfrica.
In May 2013, with funding from DfID (Department for International Development), a pilot model of ‘Inclusive Education’ was launched in nine schools across Northern Uganda. This was a collaborative project between AbleChildAfrica and the Uganda Society for Disabled Children to promote the integration and inclusion of disabled children in mainstream primary schools through child-to-child methodology.
Child-to-Child methodology empowers disabled children and their peers to identify, speak-up and encourage other out-of-school disabled children to enrol into school and be included.
Developed with the UK charity, Child-to-Child, the methodology built upon an established approach where children work together to support each other’s formal and informal learning and then use that learning as the basis for action to bring about change in their community. With AbleChildAfrica’s decades of experience in spearheading inclusive education (amongst other rights) for disabled children in Africa, the approach was redesigned and developed to innovatively put disabled children at the centre of learning – equipping them with skills and strategies to be advocates for inclusive education. As well as seeing disabled children realise their right to education, Child-to-Child Methodology changes community perspectives and attitudes towards disability and what inclusion looks like in practice; granting disabled children the dignity and right to be included as equal members of the society.
“It takes a whole village to raise a child.” African Proverb
This project epitomises the above proverb. At the core of the project, lay the voices of not only disabled children, but their peers, parents, community and local authorities – each one becoming key agents and advocates of inclusive education.
Wycliff Odong, Project Coordinator, USDC, Uganda, reflected on the successes of the project:
“Many out-of-school disabled children got to be enrolled in and retained at school; ‘imagine a 13 year old in year 1!’ Parents became more engaged in the project through supporting identification and enrolment of out-of-school disabled children. National level advocacy on Inclusive Education using Child to Child methodology was also immensely successful – particularly with rallying government and non-government actors in Uganda to champion the course for disabled children’s education through the Child to Child approach.”
Further to this, a commitment has been made by Kymbongo University to incorporate child-to-child methodology within their teacher-training curriculum. This step ensures that future teachers are equipped with the skills and knowledge to practice inclusive education within their classroom, making the practice a habit rather than seemingly adding to the already heavy workload and responsibilities of a teacher.
The numbers speak for themselves. By 2016, the project had increased the enrolment of disabled children from 436 to 905: an increase of 107%! This is an average of 52 additional disabled children per school. The success of the project has resulted in further funding (from Comic Relief) to roll out the Inclusive Education project to an additional 18 schools over the next five years. Based on the above statistics, should the project be scaled up to include ALL schools in Uganda, it has the potential to impact a further 937,500 disabled children!
Eugene is deaf. He was enrolled into one of our project schools in 2014 when he was eight after children in his neighbourhood and home visits from the school’s master trainers and teachers encouraged the parents to do so. Eugene’s parents could not believe that he was capable of learning in an inclusive school but, two years on, Eugene has proven how able he is!
“Eugene likes it at school because he can now participate in activities alongside his newly acquired able-bodied friends who help him communicate with the teachers and other children. His favourite subject is mathematics because it is easy to learn. He was in position 9 out of 126 and now promoted on merit to primary three! Eugene wants to become a teacher.”
Wycliff – Project Coordinator, USDC