The Gunjur Inclusion Project (GIP)
Mainland Africa’s smallest country, The Gambia, sits on the Atlantic coast and is home to around 2 million people. Our first and largest project is here, in the coastal town of Gunjur. The GIP has been running for over four years, with our team of local staff and young volunteers having registered around 200 disabled young people in the area. Through the GIP, we are able to meet the medical, educational, social, and recreational needs of disabled children and young people from Gunjur and the surrounding area.
The GIP provides:
The GIP playschemes are run by a team of locally-recruited young playworkers. Our local NGO ‘Disability Africa – The Gambia’ (DA-TG) now runs three remote playschemes across Gunjur, guaranteeing that all disabled children in the area have access to quality services. It is through play that individuals learn the essential skills of life; it is particularly crucial for children who have been isolated for their entire lives. Playschemes provide the perfect opportunity for social interaction, and are the most appropriate educational experience for many disabled children. Recognising the increased risk of malnutrition for disabled children, we provide all children who attend playschemes with a healthy hot meal. The playschemes act as a central hub from which we can deliver vital services to disabled children and their families.
Finding 500 – Inclusive Education
Finding 500 is our initiative to raise awareness of the rights and needs of disabled children – it is designed to find 500 (or more) isolated disabled children who are hidden at home and not accessing education. Through this work, we deliver:
Classroom support - we are now piloting a ‘classroom assistant’ scheme where some of our playworkers, who trained as teachers, work with disabled children in the classroom and provide them with vital support. They explain class activities to children, support them to carry out tasks, and provide them with more appropriate activities, if necessary. At the end of every lesson, classroom assistants and teachers will meet to debrief on the lesson and develop child-centred approaches to education.
Training for local school teachers on disability and inclusion, in order to provide school staff with the skills and resources they need to overcome barriers to inclusion for disabled children.
School materials for disabled children whose family cannot afford (or are unwilling to buy) the essentials. While we recognise that, at present, the classroom is not suitable for many disabled children, we will do all we can to encourage the participation of disabled children as appropriate.
‘Inclusion Clubs’, established to inspire non-disabled students to help us locate their absent and isolated disabled peers. This pioneering ‘child-to-child’ approach to inclusive education will lead to disabled children being supported and included by their peers in the classroom. Many Inclusion Club members volunteer at the plasyschemes.
Community engagement activities, designed to raise awareness in the wider community. For example, radio shows, featuring our local team, Inclusion Club members and parents of disabled children are regularly broadcast on the local radio station, reaching thousands of people with messages of inclusion.
Medical Support Programme
Through partnerships with local healthcare providers (including Edward Francis Teaching Hospital, and the Ministry for Health), we are able to provide essential medical care and support in Gunjur. Our Medical Support Programme is coordinated by a full-time Medical Support Officer, who visits families, arranges appointments, assessments, and treatments, and provides ongoing aftercare and support. The MSP offers:
Access to life-changing surgery, where necessary;
Mobility equipment, such as shoes and wheelchairs;
And important and accurate information and advice for parents, to help them care for their child - this is vital in discouraging negative attitudes and superstitions, thus reducing the use of harmful traditional healing practices.
Young Adults Programme
We identify disabled children as the most disenfranchised group of people on this planet, but we recognise that we must do all we can to support disabled people as they enter adulthood. That’s why DA-TG has plans to guarantee that those who have ‘graduated’ from the Gunjur Inclusion Play Project have age-appropriate, quality services. At present, no youth/young adult programmes that exist in Gunjur. We will work with local skills training centres to help them design inclusive programmes which will provide disabled adults with vital skills to help them gain worthwhile employment, where possible. DA-TG will link with organisations to ensure that disabled young people live a meaningful and safe life as they transition into adulthood.