Democratic Republic of the Congo | Daïsane’s wheelchair opens new doors
Equipped with a specially adapted wheelchair by Humanity & Inclusion, Daïsane is more independent and can play with her classmates at recess.
Daïsane, 10, lives in Lemba, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Born with club feet, she underwent several unsuccessful surgeries and finds it almost impossible to walk. After coming in contact with HI in 2021, Daïsane has been equipped with a number of assistive devices to help her thrive.
At school, she was given a wheeled chair with a small desk and a footrest to support her ankles. She also has a new wheelchair to move around at home and make the trip to school.
A caring big sister
Daïsane’s older sister, Vasli, 27, is a law student and an active member of her community. Vasli explains that, before she received her wheelchair, Daïsane used to move around by using her hands to drag herself along the floor.
“When she got her wheelchair a few weeks ago, she was grinning from ear to ear,” Vasli says. “Her face lit up.”
At last, Daïsane could finally move around by herself ─ in the courtyard in front of her home, on the road to school, and on the playground.
“Before, we paid for a motorcycle taxi to take Daïsane to school,” Vasli explains. “It was quite expensive, but now she can go in her wheelchair. It takes us about an hour each way, but it saves money.”
Daïsane loves to play cards with her sister, but her real passion is drawing – especially different kinds of clothes. In fact, her mind’s already made up: she’s going to be a fashion designer one day!
A changing education landscape
Once she arrives at school, the concrete pavements laid by HI make it easier for Daïsane to get to class. As part of its support to her inclusive school, HI has also equipped the classrooms with wider and lower chalkboards so everyone can use them. The teachers have also been trained to tutor students with special needs.
In 2019, the Democratic Republic of the Congo made education free for all. Previously, parents had to pay to enroll their children in school, and schools used this money to pay their teachers. Now, teachers’ wages are funded by the government in most state schools and it is also directly responsible for their facilities.
The new system has made education more accessible to students, but it also comes with its challenges.
For instance, two years ago, the school that Daïsane attends had 600 students. Now, enrollment has risen to 1,100 children. Some teachers have 60 children in their classes. The school receives just $35 a month for maintenance, supplies, and equipment.
Despite the larger class sizes, Daïsane’s teacher, Mrs. Agnès, says she has made good progress.
“The wheelchair means she can leave the classroom and play outside,” Mrs. Agnès says. “She doesn’t have to stay inside by herself like she did before.”
Mrs. Agnès enthusiastically describes how she makes sure Daïsane is fully included in lessons and puts her in the front row at the start of each class. She also helps her move from her wheelchair to a small, specially adapted table. This means Daïsane can write and follow the lesson without having to make an extra effort. Her favorite subject? Math!
Daïsane is now fully engaged in class and plays with her friends at recess. She feels part of the school and can move around on her own with dignity.
Nepal | Prabin knows no limits with his new artificial limb
Prabin, 6, was born without the lower part of his right leg. Humanity & Inclusion’s team first met him five years ago when his family was referred to a rehabilitation center in Biratnagar, Nepal. Since then, he’s advanced by leaps and bounds.
It wasn’t until Prabin’s mother, Sunita, was well enough to return home from the hospital that she realized something was wrong. Her baby boy had been born missing the lower part of his right leg.
“I felt very disappointed and asked my husband why he didn’t tell me before,” Sunita explains. “He said that the doctor told him not to discuss this condition with me because I was so unwell that it could make me more nervous and that would be dangerous.”
The first years of Prabin’s life were difficult for Sunita and the family. They loved their little boy but the community wasn’t very accepting of children with disabilities.
“Because of his disability, I couldn’t stop worrying about his future,” Sunita adds. “It seemed like nobody could help us. But then a social worker told us about the rehabilitation service at Biratnagar supported by HI, and then everything changed.”
Small patient, big challenges
The family first visited HI’s local partner, Community Based Rehabilitation Center, in Biratnagar when Prabin was just 18 months old. At first, Sunita and her husband had their doubts. Ambika Sharma, an expert in artificial limbs and braces for HI’s partner organization, guided them through the process.
“I had no idea that these types of services existed,” Sunita says. “My husband and I really doubted that my son would be able to walk, but Ambika explained how the device would work and how it could help him. We were convinced.”
Ambika recalls meeting the family for the first time.
“He was the youngest child we ever supported at the center,” she explains. “It was my first time making a leg for a 1-year-old child and our first attempt was not successful at all. The measurement was slightly inaccurate and we could not attach it to his leg. But we persevered and on the second attempt it was perfect.”
After that, it wasn’t long before Prabin was up and about on his new leg. When Sunita brought Prabin back to the center, he had already made amazing progress.
“It was a wonderful change in our little boy,” Sunita says. “He accepted his leg right away and just began playing, running, and even jumping like any other child of his age.”
He loves to play
To Sunita’s delight, after he was fitted with his artificial limb, Prabin was accepted into their local school.
His parents had to leave very early each morning for work, so the young boy learned to get himself ready, lock up the house, and walk to the bus stop all by himself. On top of that, he also had daily exercises to do and he had to clean and take care of his prosthesis.
The first few months weren’t easy and he was really shy around other children and his teacher. But it wasn’t long before his personality started to shine through.
You wouldn’t believe Prabin was ever shy when you see him today – he is full of energy and the life and soul of the classroom.
He’s also the fastest runner and the highest jumper at playtime. Most of all, though, he loves to play soccer.
“When he sees a soccer ball, he can't keep calm,” says Benita, his teacher.
But school isn’t just fun and games for Prabin.
“He’s an intelligent and obedient student,” Binita adds.
‘They will outgrow their prosthesis’
Recently Prabin returned to the center to see Ambika and receive a brand new artificial limb, his fourth device over the last five years. His old one was adjusted several times but is now too small.
“Growth is an important aspect when working with children,” Ambika explains. “As their bodies change, their prosthesis has to be adapted or changed to accommodate them. Just as they outgrow shirts, pants, and shoes, they will outgrow their prosthesis.”
Prabin can’t wait to try out his new leg, but it’s slightly too big when Ambika first puts it on. She adjusts it until it’s perfect.
Chad | Mahamat finally goes to school
At the Kousseri displacement site on Lake Chad, Humanity & Inclusion ensures that 13-year-old Mahamat’s disability will not stop him from getting an education.
When he was a toddler Mahamat developed an illness that still affects him today—causing weakness in his legs and requiring him to use a crutch for support. The 13-year-old boy lives with his grandmother in a community that is home to more than 7,000 internally displaced people, many of whom have fled violence or climate-related crises.
Last year, Mahamat was enrolled in school for the first time through Humanity & Inclusion’s project focused on the protection and schooling of children in the Lake region. In the 2022-23 school year, more than 7,500 children were enrolled in the project. Among them were 113 children with disabilities. Funded by the European Union, this project is part of HI's ongoing initiative to improve access to education for children impacted by the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
HI provides school supplies to support inclusive education. Once he was enrolled in school, Mahamat received a school bag, slate, and chalk from HI.
"One day, I saw other children coming back from school with backpacks. They showed me the school materials inside. I asked them where they got all this stuff, and they showed me the way to the school,” Mahamat recalls. “They told me that we would go back to school the next day, and the day after that, too. I was very happy!"
HI’s mobile team identified other needs for Mahamat. He receives food support and medical care. A new pair of crutches help him walk the long journey to school more easily, so he can have more energy to concentrate on his learning.
“When I grow up, I would like to pass on my knowledge and teach at the Koranic school, and at the same time raise goats and become a rich merchant to support my family,” Mahamat says. “And for that, I know I need to go to school."
A community effort
At the beginning of each school year HI trains and mobilizes community leaders to be part of an awareness committee. This committee goes door-to-door speaking to families and encouraging them to enroll their children in school.
To promote inclusive education, teachers undergo a three-week training at the beginning of the school year, provided by education officers, psychosocial support protection officers, the HI project manager, and primary education pedagogical inspectors.
This training covers topics such as stress management, psychological first aid, hygiene and sanitation, and inclusive techniques for teaching children with disabilities. Accessibility and inclusion are addressed in a transversal way in all the modules, allowing teachers to take better care of students with disabilities while giving them tools to raise awareness among other children and allow a protective and inclusive educational environment for all.
So far, 126 teachers from 12 schools have completed the training. Mahamat’s teacher is one of them.
"In the classroom, the teacher puts me in the front row so that I can follow the lesson well,” Mahamat explains. “He often asks me questions, so I feel at ease.”
HI in Chad
Humanity & Inclusion has been present in Chad since the 1990s in the sectors of inclusive and emergency education, mine action, victim assistance, peace-building, physical and functional rehabilitation, and the socio-economic inclusion of people with disabilities.
Kenya | Inclusive education today for inclusive futures tomorrow
Patrick, 12, is benefitting from digital schooling in the Kakuma refugee camp. Thanks to accessible and adapted materials, he is prepared to achieve all his professional goals.
Patrick was born with a physical disability. The confines of traditional public schools were making it hard for him to reach his full potential in the classroom. He was not able to balance academics and sports—he loves soccer—and missed some remedial classes as a result.
The Covid-19 pandemic forced most schools to close, and students remained at home. To allow children to continue their studies, it was crucial to help schools adapt to the situation.
With a vision of enabling learners with disabilities and young people to continue their education, Humanity & Inclusion and its partners in Kenya significantly expanded access to e-learning and training for refugees and host communities in Kakuma and Kalobeyei. The organization also strengthened capacities for digital learning to be integrated in classes and teaching once schools re-opened.
Providing more accessible learning
Ekitabu, a digital learning platform, has helped Patrick keep up with his classes. He is now confident in his ability to excel at school, and is relieved to have fewer physical barriers.
“The ability to complete work from anywhere and learn at my own pace has reduced the pressure of having to carry books to and from home every morning,” says Patrick.
Digital lessons at Patrick’s school are offered at scheduled times. There are also storytelling sessions and audio material available on the platform. According to Lilian, a teacher at Patrick’s school, the introduction of digital learning has helped children with visual, intellectual, physical and complex disabilities to find learning fun. They now have access to tablets and can get adapted materials installed for them.
“With the introduction of digital lessons by HI in our school, I am now able to find flexibility between classwork and games,” Patrick explains. “At the same time, I like having access to digital content I never knew existed, to help me excel in my education.’’
This project was supported by the Mastercard Foundation Covid-19 Recovery and Resilience Program.
Togo | Twins with visual disabilities learn at inclusive school
Yentougle and Yenhame are 13-year-old twins who both have visual disabilities. Through Humanity & Inclusion's inclusive education project in Togo, they are receiving personalized support to excel at school.
Yentougle and her brother Yenhame are two of seven siblings, four of whom have some level of visual disability. Their family lives in Sibortoti, a village in northern Togo. With a limited income, their parents cannot afford specialized care and schooling. Through an inclusive education project tailored to support students who are blind or living with low vision, the twins are receiving an education adapted to their needs.
Because of their disabilities, Yentougle and Yenhame had difficulty moving around and finding their way on their own. They couldn’t play games with other children and experienced discrimination.
"We couldn't send them on errands," says Tchable Lyabine, the twins' father. "They couldn't help us with the daily chores, like cleaning, or with the gardening. Their mother had to be with them all the time, to take them to school and pick them up afterwards."
In 2012, the siblings were identified by the Association des Personnes Handicapées Motivées de Tône, one of Humanity & Inclusion’s partner organizations. For the past 10 years, Humanity & Inclusion’s teams have provided support to the twins.
Inclusive education and other assistance
Yentougle and Yenhame are enrolled in the local primary school. Humanity & Inclusion has provided them with clothes, backpacks, shoes and other school supplies adapted to their specific needs.
Their teacher receives technical support from Humanity & Inclusion and has been trained in inclusive teaching techniques and methods to help him support the twins with their learning.
Yentougle and Yenhame receive personalized educational support from an itinerant teacher specialized in assisting students with visual disabilities. The teacher visits their home several times a week to provide tutoring, transcribe lessons and help them do exercises in Braille.
Yentougle and Yenhame have received medical support, including consultations and eye care financed by the organization. Humanity & Inclusion and its partner have also provided them with canes to help with their mobility and autonomy. The organizations also distribute food kits to the twins' family.
Awareness-raising activities have been organized within the community to combat the stigmatization of the twins. As a result, Yentougle and Yenhame experience less discrimination. Today, the twins have made friends in their village and play games with other children. Their friends often accompany them home from school.
Kenya | Head teacher takes pride in promoting inclusion at school
Susan is the head teacher at an inclusive school in the Kalobeyei settlement in Kenya, which is home to many refugee students and their families. To make the school more accessible for students with and without disabilities, Humanity & Inclusion has supported adaptations to the school’s facilities and offered training to staff.
Susan has been a teacher for more than 12 years, starting her career in Sudan. When she left her home country and settled in Kenya, she knew she wanted to continue serving students.
“I love teaching and being with children,” Susan explains. “At first, I didn’t know how to support students with disabilities. But now I’ve had training and I’m more skilled at helping them.”
Inclusive education welcomes all
At the preschool that Susan leads, adaptations have been made to ensure it’s accessible for students with disabilities. New equipment was installed at the playground and accessible restrooms were constructed.
Teachers and staff have also been trained in how best to teach students with disabilities and how to encourage parents of children with disabilities to enroll them in school.
Members of the school committee even visit students at home to make sure they don't miss class.
A supportive community
Susan says the students and broader community are embracing the changes to promote inclusion. On a recent holiday, Susan says students visited her at home, eagerly asking when they could return to the classroom.
“My school is different from other schools,” she explains. “Children with disabilities can access the building and move around without difficulty. Before, attendance numbers were down. Now, students are increasing in number. They love school!”
The preschool in Kalobeyei is part of a pilot project in Kenya to determine the impact of inclusive education on the students, teachers and communities. Humanity & Inclusion teams intend to develop an advocacy plan to be implemented in schools in other communities for years to come.
“Our school is effective,” Susan adds. “But one inclusive school is not enough.”
Madagascar | Avotavy gains confidence, friendship, and mobility
Avotavy used to spend all day alone because of her disability. With rehabilitation care from Humanity & Inclusion, she has improved her mobility and gained the confidence to make friends.
Avotavy, 9, lives with her mother, father, and two siblings in a tiny one-room house in Bezaha, Madagascar. Avotavy was born with a disability that affects her legs, so she is not able to walk or stand on her own. Her lack of mobility had a significant impact on Avotavy’s confidence. Though she could easily move her arms and speak, she spent most of her time sitting completely still, alone and silent in a corner.
One day, Avotavy met with Germaine, a community agent trained by Humanity & Inclusion to identify people who could benefit from rehabilitation services. She connected Avotavy’s parents to a Humanity & Inclusion partner physical therapist who helps her perform exercises and massages her leg muscles to relieve tension. They also teach Avotavy’s parents how to continue the exercises at home. After attending only three sessions, her mobility began to improve–and so did her confidence.
Community Agent Germaine with Humanity & Inclusion's physical therapist, Avotavy and Avotavy's mother.
Rehabilitation makes a difference
“She is now able to crawl, which she could never do before,” her mother explains. “She can also move her feet and sit up on her own. Now that she is moving, she has friends. She runs all around the village on her hands and knees playing games with the other children. Some days she is gone all day playing and laughing. It has made a huge difference!”
Avotavy says that her favorite game to play is “kitchen,” where she pretends to prepare meals using dirt, leaves and rocks as her main ingredients. She and her friends also play a Malagasy game called “tantara,” where they tell stories by hitting rocks together. Each rock represents a different character, similar to playing with dolls.
Avotavy’s dream coming true
Avotavy’s older sister teaches her what she learns at school, so Avotavy can write, draw, and even proudly count to 10 in French! She has always dreamed of going to school herself, but has never been able to because of her disability.
Humanity & Inclusion’s staff have helped her enroll for the upcoming school year, and they say that her mobility will have improved even more by the time classes start. Avotavy can’t wait. She says she will grow up to be a midwife one day.
As Humanity & Inclusion’s team leave Avotavy for the afternoon, her mother smiles wide and eagerly asks, “When is her next session?”
Mali | With her new hand, Aminata returns to school
When she was 2, Aminata contracted a disease in her left hand, the cause of which remains unknown. Despite numerous consultations in health centers and with traditional healers, her hand had to be amputated. Now 10, Aminata is enrolled in school and has a new artificial limb with support from Humanity & Inclusion.
"In 2014, my daughter was left with a missing upper limb,” says Youma, Aminata’s mother. “It was a terrible shock for the whole family, totally darkening our future.”
In 2019, a community agent referred Aminata’s family to Humanity & Inclusion. Teams encouraged Aminata's parents to enroll their daughter in an inclusive school that welcomes children with and without disabilities, where the teachers are trained to use adapted teaching methods and tools.
"Shortly after Aminata enrolled in school, her father died,” Youma explains. “We lost all hope for a while. Fortunately, together we had the strength to overcome this painful ordeal.”
With Humanity & Inclusion’s support, Aminata received an artificial arm. The organization accompanied her family throughout the medical process and paid related expenses.
"When Aminata received her prosthesis, we were very relieved that she had been fitted,” Youma remembers. “It was as if she had a 'new arm'. My daughter was really happy to have this prosthesis.”
As part of the project, Aminata also received a complete school kit, including a school bag, pens and notebooks. This was a relief for her family, who could not afford to pay for the young girl's supplies.
In December 2021, Aminata's family moved more than a mile away from the school she attends in Mali.
"I was worried because I thought she would drop out of school because of the distance to our new home," Youma explains. "But Aminata was never discouraged, and she continues to go to school."
Since her enrollment, Aminata has been attending school regularly. Currently in fifth grade, she dreams of becoming a police officer.
"Today, Aminata is my greatest hope," Youma adds.
Lebanon | Ahmad participates in rehabilitation, inclusive education activities
Ahmad, 10, was born with epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Humanity & Inclusion provides him with rehabilitation services and supports his inclusion in school.
With limited movement in his left arm and hand, Ahmad has difficulty dressing, showering, using school materials and writing. He also experiencing challenges with spelling and pronunciation. As a result, Ahmad lacks self-confidence needed to make friends and speak publicly.
Ahmad is one of 144 children participating in weekly sessions at the Mousawat Center, where specialists provide psychomotor and speech therapy, psychological support and parental guidance. After three months, Ahmad’s mobility has improved and he’s become more independent in carrying out his daily tasks at school and home.
"He uses his left arm more and can wash himself,” his mother, Aisha, explains.
Ahmad is also provided with transport services and monthly cash assistance to afford food, water, medication and other basic needs.
Commitment to education
Today, Ahmad attends school regularly and is able to spell many words correctly, read and use all his school materials.
He is talking more and has already made two new friends at school. His family is happy and grateful to see him thrive.
"It is my dream to be able to provide education for my children, because it is the only way to ensure a better future for them,” says Mohammad, Ahmad's father.
Mohammad was a teacher in Syria, and is strongly committed to his children’s education. Ahmad and his family of seven fled the war in Syria and are now living in Lebanon. His father works for an electricity company in Beirut.
This inclusive education program in Lebanon is implemented by Humanity & Inclusion in partnership with the Mousawat Center. It is funded by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) in partnership with UNICEF.
Mozambique | Rahmat dreams of becoming a primary school teacher
Rahmat, 9, loves school. At her inclusive school in Mozambique, she receives support tailored to her disability, which causes motor and speech difficulties.
Rahmat is in Year 4 at Benfica Nova primary school—an inclusive school supported by Humanity & Inclusion. She loves school and can't wait to go—pestering her father to take her even when it is closed. Rahmat especially loves reading exercises and even dreams of becoming a teacher when she grows up.
In class, she likes to meet up with her best friend, Joana.
"We play together all the time,” Rahmat says. “She helps me in class and goes with me when I have to go to the toilet."
Learning to write
Due to her disability, Rahmat couldn’t learn to write like the other children; holding a pencil is difficult for her. Rahmat’s teacher, Marta, has been trained by Humanity & Inclusion teams to use inclusive teaching methods. She accompanies Rahmat every day and provides her with personalized activities, including exercises for her writing grip. Over time, Rahmat is gradually learning to use a pencil.
“I still have a bit of trouble writing because my hands shake,” she explains. “I often have to rub out words and write them again. My teacher is teaching me to write the date, my first name and the name of the school.”
With the help of Humanity & Inclusion, Rahmat also receives psychological and learning support through the implementation of educational activities. She will also be receiving speech therapy soon to help her speak more clearly.
Her family's support
Ali, Rahmat’s father, no longer works. He spends a lot of time looking after his daughter.
"Our financial situation is difficult," he explains. "My daughter has many difficulties and special needs, and we have to take good care of her. Now that she can go to school, I have more time to look for a job. For me, it is important for my daughter to be empowered and socially emancipated. School should be inclusive—as should the rest of society!”