In September, Lauren and Alice spent 11 days with the USDC team in Uganda. This was Alice’s first time in Uganda and it was a wonderful opportunity for her to meet the team at their Kampala Head Office and at the three project district offices in Nebbi, Adjumani and Lira. It is in these three districts that we are delivering a five-year Comic Relief funded ‘Inclusive Education’ project. This project aims to enrol nearly 2,000 children with disabilities who would otherwise be excluded from learning alongside their peers into schools 27 schools, so it involves a lot of coordination and hard work from everyone involved.
Lauren and Alice were able to attend a number of meetings to gain further insight, such as project steering committee and knowledge exchange meetings, with children, parents, teachers, government officials as well as other organisations, where any challenges are raised and key learnings shared to inform future project design and delivery. The AbleChildAfrica team also attended one of the 27 Parent Support Groups, which brings parents of children with disabilities together to support each other and collectively advocate for the rights of their children. In each of the districts, they also visited a number of homes of children that the project supports, so there was a lot of travelling involved between each of the districts – nearly 30 hours on the road all in all!
It was during one of these home visits that they met Gloria, a young girl who became unwell as a baby with polio and as a result has limited use of her arms and legs. The project has supported Gloria to go to school for the first time after her mother received guidance and advice from other parents of children with disabilities at the school’s Parent Support Group, which also continues to support her financially through its saving scheme to make sure that Gloria can keep going to school. In fact, Gloria’s mother is now the vice-chair of the group and is an extremely active member.
It is through these visits that we are able to see just how much impact our work is having. Gloria has received an incredible amount of support from her teacher, Josephine, who has attended a number of the project’s teacher trainings that focus on inclusive education and our Child-to-Child participatory approach. Her friends push her to school and back home every day in her wheelchair, help carry her books, and love to play with her. This embodies the project’s Child-to-Child approach, which not only teaches children to help identify and engage with children with disabilities, but empowers the children to work together and with teachers to overcome barriers to education. Gloria loves going to school and would like to become a nurse one day so that she can help to make sure all children are vaccinated against diseases like polio.
Lauren and Alice’s journey ended back in Kampala (after spotting a few elephants and hippos along the way!) where time was taken to work through the project budgets, monitoring and evaluation framework and future activity plans. The team at USDC are so dedicated to ensuring more and more children with disabilities are able to rightfully access health and education services. It is through their tremendous dedication that this project alone has already seen over 500 children with disabilities enrol into schools since 2016. We can’t wait to see even more children enrol into inclusive schools next year – stay tuned!