November 12

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Experience the journey from Exclusion to Inclusion

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Hello friends, In my current blog, I am starting from where I left in previous blog. Yes, it is about ‘Inclusive Education’. One of my assignment objective was to assist the Project team for a successful launch of this Project. It was a great learning for me to get insights of project management and about inclusive education.

Around the world, children are excluded from schools where they belong because of disability, race, language, religion, gender, and poverty. The challenges they face are Attitudinal and behavioral barriers, Physical and environmental barriers, Policy barriers, Financial and resource barriers etc. Children with disabilities are stigmatized (due to traditional beliefs about the origins of disability) and their families do not see the value of educating them & some are hidden by their families.

People with disabilities represent 15% of the population (WHO,2011), and are among the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in the developing world. Now, imagine about our childhood how many children with disabilities we had seen in our schools and even now. It is because, either they are ‘not able to go’ or ‘not dare to go’ or ‘not allowed to join’ main stream education.

So, Before moving to Inclusive Education, let’s see Journey from Exclusion to Inclusion

Following graphic is showing the different type of Education system from Exclusion to Inclusion. It is evident from pic that the children who were having abnormality (Different colors outside circle) were excluded/rejected for education. Children with disabilities face considerably more barriers in accessing education than their non-disabled peers.

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With attention on needs for Children with disabilities, Special education came in existence. It is called Segregation. It means that Children with disabilities are being educated but separately in different schools, called as Special Schools. These Special Schools are only available in urban areas and often residential which separate children from their parents.

After this Phase and with changing perception towards disability, Integrated education system came in existence. It aims to integrate children with disabilities into mainstream education but does not fully include them in the same classes as non-disabled children or does not give them access to the same curriculum and support that they may need. In this, within mainstream schools, there are special classes who are managed by special teachers who are trained on special education for these children with disabilities.

With raising voice for human rights of Children with disabilities, now education system is moving towards Inclusive Education. In an inclusive school, a teacher can adapt his or her methods – both of instruction and classroom management – to tailor instruction to students’ different capabilities and needs. IE promotes the inclusion of children with disabilities within formal mainstream school systems by ensuring all elements are in place to ensure that they benefit from learning and realize their potential.

We all know that Schools provide the context for a child’s first relationship with the world outside their families, enabling the development of social relationships and interactions. Respect and understanding grow when students of diverse abilities and backgrounds play, socialize, and learn together. So, It becomes very important to make  a transition from ‘Education’ into ‘Inclusive Education’.

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So, what we will do in Inclusive Education Project.  This 3 year project has been designed to enable children living with disabilities (CWDs) to access education in community schools to improve their chances of growing to be productive citizens reducing dependence on families and communities, which will eventually break the inter generational cycle of poverty.

Activities involved will be to improve enrollment of children with disabilities in primary schools, improve identification of CWDs through health and learning assessments in schools and communities; Increase awareness, stronger partnership with concerned stakeholders and improve the IE policy environment.

So, the First step in starting this project was to identify and assess the schools in Eastern Province where we can increase the enrollment of CWDs. I was the part of team for Pre-Baseline survey which was followed by detailed Baseline survey by a Consultant. It was very special for me as it was the project on Inclusive education and in my professional life I am playing a role of a trainer.

We planned and completed the visit to 5 districts of eastern Zambia. Visiting schedule for each district included meeting with DEBS (Ministry of Education) of each district followed by visit to few selected Government/Granted Primary schools.

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I will like to share a surprising but inspiring moment. We met one of the DESO who was vision impaired. He shared his story how he achieved success in his life. He shared that when he lost his sight, He hadn’t lost his hope to enjoy his life. He determined to do something to survive in this world. He learned computer and I could see how well he was working on his laptop. So, it’s truly said- Where is a will, there is a way.

We visited total 13 Primary schools from Urban, Peri-urban and even in rural areas where one will not be able to find the paved roads. Most of the schools were not having accessible infrastructure whether it is Toilet, Classroom, Drinking water etc. Toilets were having very narrow gate and not having enough space for child on wheel chair to enter the toilet. Good and accessible toilet system is one of the crucial requirement to retain the children specially Disabled child and Girls. Most of the toilets were lacking the water in premises. Even the toilets were not flushable, so we can understand the level of hygiene and sanitation. Another concern is the mobility of these disable children to schools as many at times these schools are very far from the villages.

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Let’s come to Education part. Being as government schools, we can understand the availability of resources. In most of the schools, we found that teacher student ratio was horrible, in few it was 1:80. They lack the study material and assistive devices for students facing different kind of disabilities especially for Vision impaired. Vision impaired students need study material in Braille language which is very expensive. Taking the view of Inclusive education, we found that few schools were including the disabled child in mainstream but for most of them it was looking new.

A mammoth work is to be done in eastern Zambia for promoting and establishing Inclusive Education Concept. We, CHSZ, are very positive to change the picture in Eastern Zambia and to transform Eastern Zambia Schools as Role Model for Inclusive Education.

Last month, we launched our Inclusive Education project in Chipata which was one of the best Project launch for Cheshire Homes Society of Zambia (CHSZ) which was well participated by various ministries too. We made good sensitization on social media, planned various visibility materials and contents, planned cultural activities, Cake cutting celebration, making interview video etc. The Participation from the ministries was very passionate. Their assurance has given us confidence for a greater success for this Project. We hope that this will be new journey for Eastern Province from Exclusion towards Inclusion.

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In between, I got opportunity to visit world famous ‘Victoria fall’ which is on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. I enjoyed the view from both the countries. Sprays from the fall are amazing and shoots upward like the inverted rain. This inverted rain is visible from very long distances, even up to 50 Kms. It is incredible and has given ever lasting PULSE memories.

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This trip also given me the most thrilling moment of my life when I was with a hungry Lion for 20 mins. I enjoyed beautiful sunset cruise at Zambezi river which is filled with thousands of Hippos. It was amazing to see the Hippos and Elephants playing in beautiful Zambezi river.

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I made fun at ‘Octoberfest’ festival which you can say a festival of Beers with friends from Canada and Uganda. People were mad on taking drinks. Don’t worry, I have taken only one and was pointed out why I am not taking next.

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As of now, I have completed my four months in my Assignment and learned a lot professionally and personally through various challenges and opportunities. I missed my family in festivals and celebrations during these months. Next two months are very challenging and demanding but giving a good feeling that my return to India is getting closer.

Thank you for reading my blog. Need your love. See you soon at my next blog with different stories.