There are disabled children everywhere in Africa; unknown, hidden and desperately deprived.Disability Africa works with people in African communities to develop awareness of the needs of disabled young people and provide services to meet those needs. We also explore and dismantle the barriers that prevent the inclusion of disabled children at home, in schools and in their communities.
With widespread stigma associated with disability, and usually no system of welfare or support, most disabled children are homebound, often left alone for many hours, with no educational, medical or social input. But the primary difficulty which results from stigma, is that disabled children are hidden – actively concealed, often in a single room in their homes.
The first priority for disabled children is to find them and end their isolation.
So, in 2014 as part of the Gunjur Inclusion Project with our great partners TARUD, we are building our “Inclusion Centre” in the 27,000-strong community in Gunjur and launching our “Hidden Children” project. The Centre will provide a permanent base for essential educational, medical and family-support services to disabled young people, and the Hidden Children project aims to find at least 500 disabled children who are currently unknown to the wider community in Gunjur.
The project will be launched in April 2014 and the Inclusion Centre is targeted to open in September.
As readers of this blog may know, our playscheme in Gunjur has already engaged over 60 young disabled people who have come along over the past 18 months, but we know from W.H.O. statistics that there are many more disabled children than that! So what do we do?
There’s a wonderful thing about many African communities – children are welcome in everyone’s home! It is not at all unusual for children to eat and even sleep in neighbour’s compounds with relatives and families of friends. This fact was exploited by a school teacher (and great friend to Disability Africa) called Paul Mumba. Paul taught in Northern Zambia in a village called Mpika. He wanted to include disabled children in his school but he realised that first he had to accomplish two tasks – one was to find the disabled children and the second was to prepare his own pupils to receive these potential new classmates. Long story short – after some important preparation, his class of 10-12 yr olds found 200 disabled children in their village in the space of a week! This was the start of the Mpika Inclusive Education Project*
Anyhow, the point is, it was a storming success – so, borrowing from Paul’s original idea, this is how we plan to find 500 disabled children and prepare local schools to begin to include them:
- Raise community awareness of disability issues – through schools, local radio, posters, village compound visits
- Provide Disability Awareness programmes for school students and staff and create anti-bullying policies
- Provide resources and skills to support local schools to include disabled young people
- Carry out ‘village disability surveys’ using school students to engage with their disabled peers
- Create a ‘child-to-child’ programme of non-disabled ‘buddies’ supporting disabled students in classroom
- Train volunteer classroom assistants to support teachers to include disabled children
The W.H.O. estimates suggest that approximately 2,700 people in Gunjur will be disabled, and as many as 1,500 will be children under 18 years. The condition and welfare of these youngsters can only be guessed at.
Let’s get on with it!
*For more about MIEP see: http://www.child-to-child.org/publications/mpika/MIEPFinalReport.pdf )