For 18 months, Longini was unable to walk; he had outgrown his artificial limbs and Covid-19 lockdowns prevented him from getting new ones. If he was going to get back on track, Longini needed replacements as soon as possible.
Longini, now 9, was born with lower limb deformities. When he was 3 months old, his mother, Elisabeth, took him to the nearest hospital, and he was referred to an orthopedic hospital in Ririma. As other children took their first steps, Longini was still unable to walk. When he was 3 years old, doctors performed a double amputation so he could wear artificial limbs later in life.
In between working odd jobs to support Longini and his younger brother, Elisabeth sought out educational opportunities for Longini. After years of searching, she found HVP-Gatagara—a leading center for the rehabilitation and education of people with disabilities in Rwanda. More than 30 miles from their home, the center includes an inclusive boarding school. At 6 years old, Longini was finally enrolled in school.
But Longini’s greatest dream was to learn to walk.
At nearly $900 each, artificial limbs are particularly expensive in Rwanda. Few patients can afford the assistance devices, including Longini’s family. Humanity & Inclusion stepped up to help. The complex housing Longini’s school also includes a rehabilitation center and orthopedic-fitting workshop supported by Humanity & Inclusion. For families unable to afford care, Humanity & Inclusion provides financial assistance.
Fitted with two custom-made artificial limbs, Longini took his first ever steps as a 7-year-old. In no time, he was running around and playing enthusiastically with his friends. His life changed completely.
As a growing boy, Longini regularly needs new artificial limbs. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic and the strict measures taken by the government to protect the population meant the orthopedic center had to close its doors. Longini outgrew his worn devices, and it was 18 months before he could be fitted with new ones in November 2021. Longini will need rehabilitation care and artificial limbs for the rest of his life.
‘A joy to watch him now’
Longini is in his second year of primary school, where he lives most of the time.
“When he comes home for the holidays, he can do small jobs around the house, like the dishes or sweeping the courtyard,” Elisabeth adds. “He loves being with other people, going out and running about the local streets with them. All children like him.”
A hard-working student, Longini repeatedly tells his mother he wants to finish his studies so he can get a good job, earn money and support his family.
“My son’s life hasn’t always been easy but it’s a joy to watch him now,” Elisabeth says. “It’s wonderful he’s included with other children. It’s so uplifting.”
On International Mother Tongue Day (February 21, 2022), let's recognize Nepali Sign Language as the mother tongue for thousands of Deaf people who mainly communicate through Sign language.
Many deaf and hard-of-hearing people use Sign language to communicate. There are many different Sign languages depending on the country, and they are the native languages of the Deaf community. Studies also indicate when a child who is deaf or hard of hearing learns sign language, their ability to learn their native spoken language also improves.
Nepali Sign Language is a medium of communication for Nepal’s deaf community. It is a beautiful combination of facial, hand and body language.
According to the National Federation of the Deaf Nepal, there is a population of more than 300,000 people who are deaf or have hearing difficulties. In Nepal, 15,000 Deaf students attend either 22 specialized schools or 174 resource classrooms that meet their specific needs at inclusive schools.
The Reading for All program promotes an enabling environment to support Deaf students, their families, teachers and other people learn Nepali Sign Language. The project, funded by USAID, provides Deaf people a prospect to interact with people who do not sign. To enhance basic Nepali Sign Language skills, the project has developed a learning application called “Mero Sanket.” The free app is available for download on Android devices at the Google Play Store. This is the result of collaboration through the program, which is implemented by Humanity & Inclusion in partnership with World Education, the National Federation of Deaf Nepal, and the Government of Nepal.
Mero Sanket app promotes communication
Twelve-year-old Abhishek (pictured above) acquired hearing loss when he was 6. He only recently enrolled in a resource class in the western district of Dang in 2021, but his learning was interrupted due to Covid-19 lockdowns.
Initially, Abhishek didn’t seem interested, but Mero Sanket helped to fill a learning gap for him. With the facilitation and motivation of learning facilitator, he agreed to start learning. The project’s learning facilitator introduced the app to the children, helping them interact and continue with their learning during the school's closure. Later, Abhishek found the graphics and video with signs interesting.
“My son used to dress himself up, and wait for the learning facilitator,” Abhishek’s father said recently. “We are now so happy to see the interest and progress of our son in learning."
Since the launch of the app, facilitators have been instrumental in providing remedial support to Deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
“This app is very useful for those who even don’t know or partly knows Nepali Sign Language, especially teachers,” says Sapana Pokhrel, a learning facilitator from Surkhet, in Nepal’s Karnali Province. “They can communicate with the Deaf children. The self-evaluation session in this app is very useful. This is also practical, as it enables discussions on daily-use activities such as greetings, food, hygiene, and sanitation.”
“This app puts Nepali Sign Language into the hands of anyone with an interest in learning it. We wish to take more initiatives to promote inclusive education by developing an additional learning material together and to lay the groundwork for more expanded education opportunities for deaf children," a statement of the National Federation of the Deaf Nepal explains.
"Voice is not only the sound, but also a way of expressing emotions," says Sujata Rai, Project Officer in Dhankuta, a district in Nepal’s Province-1. She wonders how isolated one can feel if they cannot express their feelings as others in their mother tongue.
Reading for All works with children with a variety of disabilities, including children who are Deaf. “Mero Sanket” helps to enhance the learning skills of children, leaning on a Nepali Sign Language learning method with animated features. The objective is to bridge any learning loss children experience during Covid-19, and optimize their learning skills.
The project has already provided 302 digital learning tablets with the “Mero Sanket” app to children and teachers of resource classes. In addition, a 10-day basic Nepali Sign Language training for resource class teachers enhanced the communication in deaf resource classes.
The project is also supporting children with hearing difficulties to connect with their families, friends and teachers through Nepali Sign Language.
Laxman from Dhankuta, had dropped out of school. Despite his family’s best efforts, he refused to return. After receiving support from a learning facilitator, he changed his mind, and re-enrolled at school. "Mero Sanket" has made him interested in studying, and serves as an important learning tool for improved communications with teachers and fellow students.
Parents are also benefiting from "Mero Sanket." Rishi Ram Poudel from Kaski is the father of Manjil, who was born with limited hearing.
“Sign language plays the vital role in our communication within family members," the father explains. He had been struggling to communicate with his son before. With the "Mero Sanket" app, and the help of a learning facilitator who explained how it works, Manjil and his father can communicate more easily.
One billion persons have a disability worldwide, but meaningful inclusion remains a challenge.
In this Q&A, Ruby Holmes, an inclusive governance global specialist for Humanity & Inclusion, expands on the organization’s commitments ahead of the Global Disability Summit, which will be held virtually Feb. 15-17.
What is the Global Disability Summit?
The Global Disability Summit (GDS) is the second summit of its kind. The first one brought stakeholders from different governments, civil society organizations, the UN and organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) together in 2018, to discuss disability inclusion and inclusive development.
Disability inclusion is a key topic: about 1 billion persons, that is 15% of the global population, have a disability – and this is only an estimate due to lacking global disability data. Persons with disabilities are the largest minority group in the world.
Because of a lack of awareness amongst governments and service providers, persons with disabilities face many barriers, such as accessibility factors. However, one of the main barriers is attitudinal, as they face a lot of stigma and discrimination. One of the major challenges today is awareness raising, to show that persons with disabilities have equal rights and must have access to services just like everybody else.
Why is the GDS a key moment for inclusion and disability rights?
The GDS is important because of the momentum that the disability rights movement is gaining globally. We really want to keep those conversations, those partnerships going. It is also extremely important to hold stakeholders accountable to implement their commitments and ensure they are including persons with disabilities and OPDs in all of their programs, policies and initiatives.
A report by the Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities found that between 2014 and 2018, less than 2% of international aid was disability relevant. So international stakeholders must really continue to support funding, providing more direct support to OPDs and pay them for their expertise.
What are HI’s commitments for the GDS?
Inclusive health, inclusive education and inclusive humanitarian action are part of the topics and themes that were produced by the Summit Secretariat. They are also pillars to Humanity & Inclusion's work and interventions.
In inclusive education, Humanity & Inclusion commits to working with local education actors to train teachers to include students with disabilities. The work will include a focus on supporting children and young people with a range of diverse and complex needs, such as intellectual disabilities, communication impairments and psychosocial disabilities. Humanity & Inclusion commits to developing a guidebook and toolkits within the next two years, to developing research on the itinerant teacher and support mechanism model, and to applying these innovations in at least five new flagship projects over the next two years. Amongst other actions, Humanity & Inclusion also commits to advocating for financing efforts, to strengthen inclusive education systems and increase investments, in international platforms and networks.
For the health sector, Humanity & Inclusion is focusing on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). Among other items, the organization is committing to develop at least four new inclusive SRHR projects over the next four years, through meaningful participation of organizations of persons with disabilities. In addition, through continued and renewed advocacy with key partners, Humanity & Inclusion commits to influence at least four policies, strategic planning or budgeting processes in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom and European Union in the next 4 years.
Inclusive humanitarian assistance
Persons with disabilities are routinely ignored during disaster preparedness and often left behind when disaster strikes. More climate-induced disasters will increase the vulnerability of persons with disabilities. To fight against that, Humanity & Inclusion is committing to support persons with disabilities to meaningfully participate in humanitarian responses. By the end of 2025, the organization will develop, pilot and share two sets of tools for field professionals and three lessons learned from case studies.
Humanity & Inclusion has also created a commitment on meaningful engagement and sustained partnerships with OPDs across all of its projects. Throughout livelihood and education initiatives, Humanity & Inclusion will implement capacity building on advocacy and inclusive policies in five countries by the end of 2026. The organization has also made a commitment on acknowledging disability, gender and age as cross cutting components and critical vulnerability factors for populations affected by sudden onset or long-term crisis or poverty. Recognizing the diversity of the disability community, Humanity & Inclusion is committing to implement its disability, gender and age framework within all its projects by the end of 2023, to ensure that further marginalized groups, such as persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities, receive equal opportunities and representation in all initiatives.
The meaningful participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities is also key in many other topics, such as climate action and disaster risk reduction. Humanity & Inclusion attended COP—a global climate change summit—in Glasgow in 2021 and disability inclusion was not at all on people’s radar.
What outcomes is HI expecting of the GDS?
We need to increase the scale and ensure that disability inclusion is meaningful, not just a tick mark. Humanity & Inclusion is definitely advocating for more funding on inclusion projects. The organization also wants stakeholders to be intentional about disability inclusion from the very beginning and include OPDs in the design of their projects.
Humanity & Inclusion is expecting more dedication from States, UN entities and donors to support inclusive actions. Commitments are not legally binding agreements and there was a lack of response from some stakeholders at the last summit. For this summit, there has to be more pressure, more follow-up. Commitments have to be much more time-bound and practical, so that they are more likely to be achieved.
What added value can HI bring?
The GDS is very aligned to Humanity & Inclusion’s work and mission. For 40 years, Humanity & Inclusion has worked alongside persons with disabilities and populations living in situations of extreme hardship, in order to respond to their essential needs, improve their living conditions, promote and respect their dignity and fundamental rights. Humanity & Inclusion is also unique in that it is working in situations of poverty and exclusion, but also conflicts and disasters. The organization’s actions encompass the thematic pillars of the summit, focusing on more development context through education and health but also working in many situations focused on humanitarian action.
Furthermore, through its disability, gender and age policy, Humanity & Inclusion is taking more of an intersectional approach to inclusion. This approach is gaining a lot of traction globally: it is an important time and momentum to look at the various identities of a person and the role they play in their everyday lives.
Why is it important to support OPDs?
Obviously, we have to stay true to the disability rights motto: nothing about us without us. How could we work on disability rights without including persons with disabilities? They are the experts of their own needs, the barriers they face and accessibility. They must play a central role in ensuring that their human rights are translated into concrete measures that improve their lives.
OPDs are a way for persons with disabilities to come together and have a united voice. That uniform voice and collective movement has really played a huge role in the traction that the disability movement has had globally.
Humanity & Inclusion has historically always partnered with local organizations, to promote their meaningful participation, equal access to opportunities and resources as well as accessibility of the environment.
For instance, Humanity & Inclusion’s teams are working in Iraq with the Iraqi Alliance of Disability (IADO). In 2019, Humanity & Inclusion supported IADO in a joint publication on a shadow report on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which helped the UN committee learn more of a civil society perspective. It led to 69 recommendations to the Iraqi government, which actually encouraged the Prime Minister to sign a decree to reserve a certain percentage of jobs for persons with disabilities.
What is HI doing to support OPDs?
Humanity & Inclusion has been supporting the implementation of the CRPD in 59 countries and currently has about 35 country projects across 25 countries, where it is working with OPDs. Humanity & Inclusion is supporting OPDs through small grants, capacity building (workshops and trainings on creating an advocacy action plan, for instance), partnership building and elevated advocacy efforts, from the local to the regional, national and international levels.
Humanity & Inclusion’s main goal is to work at the local, very grassroots level, and then support those efforts to reach the national and international level, to create networks and spark constructive dialogues. For instance, Humanity & Inclusion has a regional capacity-building program in 15 countries in West Africa. The lead OPD partner is the Western Association of the Federation of Persons with Disabilities, who is in turn supporting smaller federations of OPDs.
In most contexts, Humanity & Inclusion does not need to play the advocacy role, as the organization is only acting as a support and not replacing OPDs.
Ruby Holmes is an inclusive governance global specialist. She has been working at HI for over 3 years and represents the organization in a number of international consortiums. She is working alongside HI teams to help them support civil society and organizations of persons with disabilities, through training materials, capacity-building workshops, advocacy events, etc. She is making sure HI is partnering with local organizations and that they're being engaged in a very meaningful way.
Humanity & Inclusion recently organized a consortium project review and planning for the USAID-funded “Reading for All-R4A” Program in Nepal with its colleagues from USAID Nepal, World Education and 10 other partners.
The consortium celebrated the outstanding performance of the inclusive education project, and discussed the challenges faced by the project participants, partners, and key stakeholders to better plan for the future: centering solutions to strengthen the government education system that support children with disabilities inside and outside the classrooms. The partners also developed a comprehensive implementation plan for the next six months of the project.
- 5,071 head teachers and database focal persons from 3,094 schools trained on Early Screening and Integrated Educational Management Information System (EMIS).
- 103,268 children from early child development (ECD) to grade three completed early screening interventions at schools that identifies functional challenges of screened children and makes them available via a central EMIS sub-system managed by Center for Education and Human Resource Development.
- 86 learning facilitators trained to help children with disabilities through remedial and outreach learning support.
- 360 students received support by learning facilitators.
- 186 digital learning tablets and 892 hygiene kits distributed to children with disabilities.
- 8,544 sets of supplementary teaching-learning materials provided to 257 schools from four core municipalities, and to 46 resource classes in 10 districts.
- 9 Inclusive Education training packages designed and tested to ensure long-term intervention for children with disabilities.
“Happy to see all the progress made and great teamwork over the past few months- you all should be proud of your achievement,” said USAID Nepal’s Laura Parrott in her reflection note during the event. “We must continue the spirit and focus on the quality of interventions, working together to bring the change in children’s reading outcome.”
“As we have completed our strategic interventions, which often took longer time to coordinate with the authorities than we had anticipated, and entered at the full swing with field intervention in the schools and communities, we will achieve all target and objectives on time,” said Khindra Adhikari of HUSADEC, a local partner of Humanity & Inclusion for implementing the program in the district of Dhankuta.
“The leveling interventions of past six months helped the project to clear a huge backlog of the past few years. Now, we are in a comfortable position to plan our targets for next six months,” summarized Govind Phulara, Project Coordinator, at DEC-Nepal, Banke.
“The program has reached this milestone due to every single effort made by the members of the R4A consortium,” acknowledged Shaurabh Sharma, Chief of Party for the program. “For example, 94% of planned financial resources used, 48% of total revised project target of screening children performed using an early screening tool for the review period because of the excellent planning and execution.”
Humanity & Inclusion helped open the only school in Ngourtou Koumboua, a village that hosts more than 7,000 people displaced by violence. More than 820 children have enrolled, including 501 girls.
Through a project aimed at protecting and educating children in the Lake Region, Humanity & inclusion built six classrooms to finalize school’s construction. Built according to the “temporary learning spaces” model, using local materials and metal structures, the new classrooms are adapted for emergency contexts.
The new elementary school opened its doors on Oct. 25, 2021, finally providing more than 800 displaced children a place to learn. Six newly recruited teachers are leading classes daily.
When the school opened, 161 newly enrolled children received school supply kits containing one bag, four notebooks, one slate, two pencils, two pens, one box of color pencils and one ruler. Additional supplies are being distributed in January 2022.
Parents celebrate the opportunity to finally send their children to school.
“We are very happy this morning,” one father said at the opening ceremony. “For us and our children who have waited so long in Ngourtou Koumboua, the school year can finally begin. I am so glad to see this school opening!”
HI’s presence in Chad
Humanity & Inclusion has worked in Chad since the 1990s in the sectors of inclusive and emergency education, mine action, victim assistance, peace building, physical rehabilitation and economic integration of people with disabilities. Teams currently run projects in N'Djamena; the Lake, Logone Occidental and Logone Oriental provinces; and the Borkou, Ennedi and Tibesti (BET) regions.
This education project is part of Humanity & Inclusion’s ongoing initiative to improve the physical, psychosocial and cognitive protection of children affected by humanitarian crises by improving their access to quality education. Future plans include establishing child-friendly spaces for psychosocial support, constructing sustainable and accessible restrooms, and training parent-teacher associations, community-based protection networks and educational staff in inclusive education, children's rights and psychological first aid.
The Global Disability Summit will be held virtually Feb. 15-17, 2022, to advance the rights of people with disabilities. Humanity & Inclusion is calling on States to commit to a more inclusive world.
Drawing on its experience in the field, in collaboration with organizations of persons with disabilities, Humanity & Inclusion will work to achieve progress on three core issues at the summit: inclusive education, inclusive health and inclusive humanitarian assistance. The organization is formally calling on States to attend and take the necessary steps toward a more inclusive future.
A call to action
The 2022 Global Disability Summit is critical to advancing the rights of people with disabilities and helping ensure they live with dignity. In the wake of the first summit in 2018, 171 international actors committed to advancing the inclusion of people with disabilities in all areas of society.
This issue will remain central to the 2022 summit. It is vitally important for States, international agencies, funding bodies and civil society organizations to attend the gathering in large numbers and make commitments that are both ambitious and practical.
Humanity & Inclusion is launching an urgent appeal to all international actors to seize this opportunity and attend the summit. The commitments made must address core inclusion issues in collaboration with organizations run by and for people with disabilities, and be supported by funding to ensure they are implemented in full.
Three core commitments
Humanity & Inclusion is committed to making progress on three key disability rights issues at the 2022 Global Disability Summit. The organization also advocates taking into account the intersections of gender and age with disability rights.
More than 32 million children with disabilities worldwide are deprived of an education—which means one-third of all children are not enrolled in school, according to a 2016 report published by the Education Commission. Humanity & Inclusion operates 48 education projects in 26 countries, collaborating with local partners to ensure the specific needs of all children, including those with disabilities, are taken into account. In 2020, Humanity & Inclusion helped 365,000 children go to school.
Humanity & Inclusion will urge national and international actors to commit to promoting access to school for girls, making education systems more inclusive and increasing funding for inclusive education policies.
Humanity & Inclusion advocates the implementation of Article 25 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which recognizes their right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health. The organization works to implement inclusive health policies, train health staff and ensure equal access to care. To achieve this, Humanity & Inclusion works alongside with people with disabilities and their organizations to uplift their voices and support their involvement in decision-making.
The organization is committed to working alongside people with disabilities and the organizations that represent them, with an emphasis on women and young people with disabilities. Humanity & Inclusion works to facilitate access to quality information and services in the field of sexual and reproductive health and to advance rights in these areas.
Inclusive humanitarian assistance
Humanity & Inclusion helps international humanitarian actors—NGOs, funding bodies and international agencies—across 20 countries to develop a more inclusive approach. To achieve this, Humanity & Inclusion works alongside organizations run by and for people with disabilities to implement humanitarian projects and programs—such as interventions related to natural disasters—that take into account the specific needs of people with disabilities. The organization works with the Global Protection Cluster—a network of NGOs and international organizations engaged in protection work in humanitarian crises—and its partners to facilitate inclusive action through a global approach that includes age, gender and disability in adopted strategies.
Humanity & Inclusion is committed to helping implement the guidelines issued by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee, an inter-agency forum of UN and non-UN humanitarian partners founded to strengthen humanitarian assistance, including by giving people with disabilities and their representative organizations a voice and a role in humanitarian action. The organization plans to undertake promotion actions, gather good practices, and share tools and data on inclusive action while empowering international actors on this issue.
Humanity & Inclusion’s expertise
For more than 40 years, Humanity & Inclusion has worked to advance the rights of people with disabilities and to help them live with dignity. Across nearly 60 countries, the organization helps people with disabilities and their representative organizations participate in public debates to meaningfully shape strategies designed to meet their specific needs.
Drawing on its experience and expertise built up over many years, Humanity & Inclusion is committed to advancing the rights of people with disabilities at the 2022 Global Disability Summit. A delegation from Humanity & Inclusion will attend the summit, which will be held virtually.
October 25 marked the first day of school at a new elementary school in Ngourtou Koumboua in Chad’s Lake province. Humanity & Inclusion helped open the doors of the village’s only school, which is now home to more than 7,000 people displaced by violence.
Since 2018, the village has served as a host site for thousands of internally displaced persons who fled violence of armed groups affecting the region since 2014. Until now, the village has been without a school.
Two years in the making
Through the PROSOLAC project, aimed at protecting and educating children in the Lake Region, Humanity & Inclusion built six classrooms to finalize the construction of this school, two years in the making. Built according to the "Temporary learning spaces" model, which favors the use of local materials and metal structures, the new classrooms are adapted for emergency contexts and can accommodate more than 300 students for the 2021-2022 school year. The project is funded by the European Union through 2023.
For parents, who have been unable to send their children to school until now, the opening of this school is particularly important.
"We are very happy this morning," one father shared at the opening ceremony. "For us and our children who have waited so long in Ngourtou Koumboua, the school year can finally begin. I am so glad to see this school opening."
The official opening ceremony was held in the presence of the departmental inspector of the Provincial Delegation of National Education and Civic Promotion of the Lake, the residential chief, the representative of the canton chief of Nguelea and the students’ parents.
School supply kits–containing 1 bag, 4 notebooks, 1 slate, 2 pencils, 2 pens, 1 box of colored pencils and 1 ruler–were distributed to the 161 newly enrolled students.
Humanity & Inclusion in Chad
Humanity & Inclusion has worked in Chad since the 1990s in the sectors of inclusive and emergency education, mine action, victim assistance, peace building, physical rehabilitation and economic integration of people with disabilities. Teams currently run projects in N'Djamena; the Lake, Logone Occidental and Logone Oriental provinces; and the Borkou, Ennedi and Tibesti (BET) regions.
This education project is part of Humanity & Inclusion’s ongoing initiative to improve access to school and quality of schooling for more than 9,000 children in Chad’s Fouli and Kaya departments.
Through an inclusive education project in Nepal, Rabina finally has the chance to learn alongside other students.
Rabina, 19, was born with cerebral palsy. As a girl with disabilities from a low-income family, she was unable to go to school. Her parents were unaware children with disabilities could access education. Disability is stigmatized in communities like hers, where there are no inclusive schools. As a result, Rabina lacked both mobility and education for years.
That’s changing since she met a community officer working with the Empowering a New Generation of Adolescent Girls with Education (ENGAGE) project, managed by Humanity & Inclusion and Voluntary Service Overseas along with local partners in Nepal. The project seeks to empower more than 2,000 girls who are not enrolled in school—including those with disabilities—through education across three districts in Nepal’s Terai region. It is supported by UK Aid’s Girls Education Challenge Fund.
“I think that many people with disabilities in our community are still deprived of their rights and the support they need to gain their independence,” Rabina explains. “They need to be involved in projects like ENGAGE, which can be life-changing for them.”
Rabina’s opportunity to learn
In a medical camp organized by the ENGAGE, teams assessed Rabina’s needs and provided her with a wheelchair and toilet chair along with training in how to use them correctly. Soon, she will receive another, custom-made wheelchair that will help her move around even more easily.
A community officer also paid regular visits to her home to meet with her family. After a series of discussions and counseling, Rabina’s parents agreed to let Rabina join an intermediate class to prepare her to attend school. ENGAGE supplied her with the necessary learning materials.
“Thanks for supporting me with a wheelchair and a toilet chair; they really made a difference to my life,” Rabina says. “Thank you for providing counseling to my parents. They started to see me as their daughter with a future and have helped me learn.”
Rabina has completed her intermediate class, learning basic literacy skills and developing a strong interest in drawing and art. She is gaining self-confidence and wants to go to school to take her learning a step further. She will soon join a classroom where children with and without disabilities learn and play together.
“Rabina’s life has changed a lot since she joined the ENGAGE project,” explains Suman Buda, a community officer who works with Rabina. “She had never been to school and was totally illiterate. Now I feel very happy for her because she can read her lessons and write.”
Rabina’s parents are pleased with the progress she has made in her studies, and they are participating in a training program to learn how to better support their daughter. Now, they see her as a woman with ambitious plans for the future. Rabina’s neighbors are more welcoming, too, inviting her to social activities and rituals. This means Rabina is more involved in her local community, and she feels more confident than ever.
A new Nepali sign language learning app will support Deaf children develop pre-literacy, reading and basic sign language skills. The free app launched on Sept. 23, in recognition of International Day of Sign Languages.
Called Mero Sanket, the app is the first of its kind for Nepal, can also help teachers, parents, and caregivers to learn basic Nepali sign language, and will be available as an offline platform.
The app was developed as part of the USAID-supported Reading for All program, which is implemented by Humanity & Inclusion in partnership with World Education, the National Federation of the Deaf Nepal (NDFN), the Center for Education and Human Resource Development (CEHRD) and other local partners. In Nepal, children with disabilities face unique challenges in accessing meaningful and inclusive education. They experience a lack of proper learning infrastructure and accessible instruction materials adapted to their needs. In Nepal, 15,000 Deaf students attend 24 specialized schools with 174 resource classrooms. Nepali sign language was developed in 1998 and has rapidly progressed, helping students who are deaf excel in their education and communication. However, Nepali sign language is not accessible in all parts of the country, which has resulted in disproportionate high school dropout rates for Deaf students.
“Inclusion is at the heart of Humanity & Inclusion’s core values and accessibility in communication is our mandate," explains Reiza Dejito, director of Humanity & Inclusion's activities in Nepal, India and Sri Lanka. "When children’s access to education is curtailed due to Covid-19 containment measures, and when children are confined to their homes, this ingenious app helps Deaf children to continue learning. The starting point was creating a tailor-made mobile app for learning Nepali sign language, and making it fun and on demand to anyone, anytime, anywhere."
In a statement, the National Federation of the Deaf Nepal wrote, “This app puts Nepali Sign Language into the hands of anyone with an interest in learning it. In creating this mobile app, we appreciate the support provided by the Government of Nepal, USAID, Humanity & Inclusion, World Education, and all technical teams involved. In the days to come, we wish to take more initiatives to promote inclusive education by developing an additional learning material together with everyone involved in such activities and to lay the groundwork for the education of Deaf children.”
The free app is already available for download on Android devices in the Google Play Store. It includes six lessons on vowels, consonants, words, punctuation marks and other exercises in Nepali sign language. The app can be accessed offline once it is installed on a device.
“It has been a pleasure sharing that the Mero Sanket application has been developed, targeting students who are deaf or hard of hearing from grades one to three," says Dr. Divya Dawadi, Director of Inclusive Education at CEHRD. "The mobile application does not only support pre-literacy, reading and basic sign language skills, but this also helps teachers, parents, caregivers and other stakeholders learn basic sign language. The government of Nepal is committed to providing access to education for children, including those with disabilities. Together with the partners, we have developed lessons in sign language to catch up from the learning loss resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic."
Studies on educational outcomes in Nepal point to high drop-out rates and comparatively low achievement rates for children with disabilities, particularly in rural areas. USAID’s Reading for All program aims to improve reading outcomes for students with disabilities, through improving data quality on students with disabilities, early screening, building technical capacity, and testing disability inclusive education instructional models. The project will screen an estimated 277,418 children from grades 1-3 for any disabilities. Early screening helps teachers and schools to adapt students’ individualized education plans and the learning environment. Likewise, Reading for All will train more than 9,400 primary school teachers and 46 educators in resource classrooms to use inclusive teaching instruction to adapt to different needs of students.
"USAID is committed to ensuring all children have access to learning, especially children who are most marginalized," says Shannon Taylor, USAID/Nepal’s Education Office Director. "This is even more pressing during the Covid-19 pandemic where so many children are out of school and children with disabilities are disproportionately affected. We hope that this will be one more tool parents and teachers can use to support children who are deaf or hard of hearing in learning to read."
Saisa’s leg was amputated after an unknown critter stung or bit her foot, causing a serious infection. With help from Humanity & Inclusion, she is learning to get back on her feet and has already returned to school.
Saisa, 10, lives with her parents and seven brothers and sisters in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp. At a birthday party near her home, Saisa was bitten or stung on her left foot. After the injury, her leg became gangrenous and required a life-saving amputation.
"Saisa was 2 years old when we arrived in Kakuma,” says her mother, Rihad. “My daughter was in good health. And then this happened. One day she went to play with her friends and the next morning she told us she’d been bitten or stung by something. We don't know what. At first, I thought she’d had a nightmare, but then things got worse.
“We took her to hospital, but we were under lockdown because of Covid-19, so we were sent away before she could be treated. Back home, her leg started to swell up and got worse, so we returned to hospital."
The doctors spotted the first signs of gangrene and, to save her life, amputated her leg below the knee.
A support network
Humanity & Inclusion’s physical therapists immediately began providing Saisa with the care she needed. She was also given psychological support to cope with the distress of losing her leg. Saisa continues to visit Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation center, where she is supported by a multidisciplinary team.
“I first met Saisa just two days after her amputation,” explains Stella Mwende, a physical therapist. “We initially focused on treating her stump and giving her emergency psychological support. She was then referred to the rehabilitation center, where she was given rehabilitation care once a week. We started by doing exercises with her to increase her flexibility and strengthen her muscles. We also gave her a pair of crutches.”
Saisa has already learned to keep her balance and get around using the crutches. Humanity & Inclusion also built parallel bars at her home to help in her recovery.
“Saisa can go out and play with her friends at last without me running after her all the time,” her mother says.
Humanity & Inclusion teams also supported Saisa’s family through this tough time, explaining the different stages of grief that Saisa was experiencing. Her family learned how to reassure her and encourage her to learn new skills and become more independent.
“I found the hospital really stressful because I thought I was going to lose her,” Saisa’s mother explains. “Once we got home, some people from Humanity & Inclusion came and now my daughter feels more hopeful about the future.”
Back to school
Humanity & Inclusion’s inclusive education team also helped find a place for Saisa at an inclusive school near her home.
“We’ve put a plan in place so Saisa can return to school under the right conditions,” explains Caleb Omollo, an occupational therapist. “The first decision, which we took with Saisa and her family, was to transfer her to a school closer to home, where the teachers are trained in inclusive education and are used to assisting children with disabilities. We have assigned an educational assistant to monitor her progress at school and to look after her welfare both inside and outside the classroom.”
Saisa walks to school each day with a classmate named Ana.
"We’ve also put in place a system to make sure Saisa feels safe on the way to school,” adds Caleb. “We want Saisa to feel she belongs to her school and her community as soon as possible, so she can play a full role in every aspect of society.”
She also attends psychotherapy sessions to help her rebuild her confidence and reconnect with others.
“We work on her interaction with other children, and we help them learn from each other,” Caleb says.
Saisa is now waiting to be fitted with a prosthetic leg from another service provider, which should happen soon. Humanity & Inclusion will continue to support Saisa with the services she needs to move forward.
“It’ll be good to play with my friends again when I get my prosthesis,” Saisa says. "I'm really glad to be back at school again now. I want to be a businesswoman when I grow up and sell a lot of things!”