Mohammed is one of four community volunteers working on the inclusive education projects currently run by HI in Timbuktu, Mali.
He covers the districts of Hamabangou and Sareikeyna, where he lives. His main role is to identify children with disabilities living in the neighborhood who, for one reason or another, do not go to school.
"We identify children following several meetings with communities, religious leaders and parents. This is very important, for their schooling and to monitor their medical care. Once a child has been identified, we’re already halfway to solving his or her problem."
Referring children to schools and rehabilitation services
Once these children are identified, a series of meetings are organized with their parents. Mohammed has been trained to make a disability assessment of each child and to compile a list of their specific needs.
He then sends this information to HI’s teams in order to refer these children to nearby schools where staff have been trained to take their specific needs into account.
Similarly, and if necessary, Mohammed can also be the link between the children and medical facilities, where they can receive the rehabilitation care they need, free of charge.
Raising disability awareness of parents and communities
Beyond this referral work, community volunteers also play a very important role in raising awareness of families and providing them with information.
Mohammed meets with parents who often feel unprepared for their child's situation. They may not be aware of their child’s potential and question why they should send them to school. As a result, many children stay at home and have very limited contact with other people.
Since he started this work, Mohammed has noticed a positive change:
"Thanks to our awareness campaign, people have started to understand that they need to allow these children to leave their homes - for their well-being and to reach out to others."
During the months that follow the first identification, Mohammed continues to pay regular visits to note the progress made by the children once they have returned to school.
Since summer 2016, 129 children with disabilities from Timbuktu have been sent to primary schools with the support of HI. However, 32 million children with disabilities around the world still have no access to education.
The #school4all campaign
Last July, HI launched a worldwide #school4all campaign, in order to open the school doors to the children with disabilities who can’t access them. This is a priority for the organization, which acts in 31 countries to allow more than 144,000 children to receive an education.