Nyaduoth, 16, has newfound freedom with her tricycle, along with the chance to go to school. She serves as a shining example to her fellow Nguenyyiel refugee community that with access, anything is possible.
"My life was bad before I met the Humanity & Inclusion team," Nyaduoth says. In fact, she doesn't really like to think about it.
The young girl could not move on her own, was not allowed to go to school, and her own mother believed her disability was a curse from God. Nyaduoth comes from Ochom, a town in South Sudan, and has been living in Ethiopia’s Nguenyyiel refugee camp for several years.
Her life changed when she first got a wheelchair from Humanity & Inclusion and then a tricycle—finally she could move around freely. The Humanity & Inclusion team later convinced her mother that children with disabilities should enroll in school. Thanks to psychosocial support, Nyaduoth has gained more confidence. She's also made friends. She helps her church community and, to her mother’s delight, is a diligent student.
Nyaduoth participates in all of Humanity & Inclusion’s community awareness raising events for disability rights and inclusion, where she boldly shares her own experience. She also works in community outreach for another organization, teaching people in the camp best hygiene practices.
She could only crawl across the floor, whether it was dry as dust or muddy. Going to the bathroom was especially difficult. Nyaduoth’s father died when she was 3, and her mother felt her child was a burden. The local school did not accept her either. Nyaduoth had no opportunity to interact with other children, to learn or to make friends.
A wheelchair from Humanity & Inclusion was her first step toward independence. Next, was training her family and community in understanding that Nyaduoth has the right to choose her path in life, and that children with disabilities must have equal rights, not be discriminated against. Nyaduoth received psychosocial support, a barrier-free toilet and a hand tricycle, with which she can be mobile all by herself.
“Thanks to the tricycle and the support of Humanity & Inclusion, I developed my self-confidence and can now ignore the barriers of my disability,” Nyaduoth explains.
Today, she is a role model for anyone living with a disability. She appears at events and shows that education with a disability is possible. And, her mother no longer equates disability with incapacity.
"I am so happy when I see my daughter moving independently from one place to another," says the mother of seven children.
Her daughter is growing just like all the other girls in the camp. Nyaduoth has a boyfriend, and the young couple has promised to get married and take care of one another.
Image: Nyaduoth sits in her hand-operated tricycle outside her home in a refugee camp in Ethiopia. Copyright: Till Mayer/HI
For most children around the world, the Covid-19 crisis has made it harder to access education. The most disadvantaged and vulnerable children are also the most likely to have been affected - like Pinda, a young Malian girl helped by Humanity & Inclusion.
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 caused severe disruption to the lives of people around the world. But for many vulnerable children living in extreme poverty, the closing of classrooms brought their education to a sudden halt. From March to September 2020, most schools remained closed in Mali, and only a small number of students were allowed into classrooms until December 2020.
The only way to access education was through the television and radio. Through an inclusive education project in the Sahel region led by Humanity & Inclusion, Pinda was given a solar-powered radio to follow her lessons over the airwaves.
"This initiative really helped me supervise her education at home while the schools were closed," says Pinda's aunt. “I left school in Primary Year 6, but I knew enough to help Pinda without a problem.”
For Pinda, following lessons on the radio not only allowed her to retain what she had learned before schools closed, it also kept her busy at home.
Image: A young girl named Pinda does schoolwork with the assistance of her aunt and a solar-powered radio outside of her home in Mali. Copyright: HI
Saisa developed such serious health issues after being pricked by a poisonous thorn that her leg had to be amputated. Humanity & Inclusion is providing rehabilitation and psychosocial support for Saisa.
Saisa, 10, was attending a birthday party in the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya last year when she was pricked on the left foot by a poisonous thorn. After a week of traditional treatment, Saisa’s condition continue to worsen. Her leg was turning black and her skin was peeling. Her mother took her to the International Rescue Committee hospital, where doctors determined Saisa was experienced gangrene. She was admitted to the hospital and, two days later, her leg was amputated.
After surgery, Humanity & Inclusion’s pediatric rehabilitation workers worked with Saisa to shape her stump, help her manage phantom pain and teach her exercises to expand her range of motion. She also received psychosocial support to process the trauma and grief of losing her leg.
Saisa continues to receive care at Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation center in the refugee camp, focusing on physical exercises to strengthen her muscles and train her balance, as well as psychosocial support to improve her self-esteem.
Soon, Saisa will be equipped with a prosthetic leg. In the meantime, Saisa has learned to walk with crutches. Saisa’s parents and her six siblings are also learning about the stages of grief so they can support Saisa on her journey to recovery.
“Saisa can finally go out and play with her friends without my supervision,” says Rihad, Saisa’s mother. “In the hospital, I was stressed and I thought my daughter had become useless. I never knew that someone would help me. When I went home, the Humanity & Inclusion people came to my house and now my daughter is a person again.”
When schools reopened this year, Humanity & Inclusion made sure Saisa was transferred to an inclusive school within her neighborhood. Her confidence is growing each day, and she has big dreams for her future.
“I want to be a businesswoman when I grow up and sell many things,” Saisa says. “I am very happy that I can go to school now.”
Image: A young girl named Saisa uses crutches as she walks with her friends at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. Copyright: HI
Humanity & Inclusion observed the International Day of Education on January 24, by alerting Sahel countries’ governments and international cooperation organizations on the unjust exclusion of girls with disabilities from school.
Worldwide, women with disabilities are three times more likely to be illiterate than men without disabilities. The education of young girls, including girls with disabilities, is an injustice that Humanity & Inclusion is fighting against, particularly in the Sahel region, which includes many low-income countries.
In 2020, Humanity & Inclusion donors and partners helped fund 52 inclusive education projects in 27 countries in West, Central, North and East Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. This work focuses in particular on children with disabilities - the most vulnerable and excluded young learners in the world - in low-income countries, both in development and emergency contexts. Humanity & Inclusion teams work to increase enrollment, participation and the success of children and young adults with disabilities in education.
The reality of girls' education in the Sahel
In Mali, less than 18% of women with disabilities can read and write. In Niger and Mali, more than half of the girls enrolled in primary school do not follow through to secondary education. In Burkina Faso, only 1% of girls have completed secondary school. For girls with disabilities, they face double the challenge of obtaining an education.
Prejudices against disability
In the Sahel, children with disabilities also face horrific levels of prejudice and false beliefs. For instance, some families see having a child with a disability as a "tragedy" or a "punishment." Children with disabilities are treated poorly and sometimes even hidden. Some people believe that disability is contagious.
According to some beliefs in the Sahel Region, the bodies of people with disabilities have magical properties. Girls with intellectual disabilities are vulnerable to sexual abuse and violence because some believe that sexual intercourse could bring them wealth or power or even cure AIDS.
The role of boys
A boy is considered to be responsible for the family's future income. Boys are sent to school and have a better chance of getting a paid job. It is seen as unnecessary for girls to attend school, as they are routinely confined to domestic work.
Children with disabilities are very often seen as an additional burden on the family, and girls with disabilities even more so. The costs of educating girls with disabilities are considered too high, in part because of the economic loss involved. Girls with disabilities often contribute to the economic survival of the household through begging or by participating in domestic chores.
Obstacles at school
When they manage to attend school, girls with disabilities face many obstacles. They often drop out of school early as they approach puberty, due to the family’s concern to protect them from sexual violence and early pregnancy. The lack of adapted toilets is also a cause of repeated absences and abandonment.
"I prefer to study but if my parents force me to marry, I will agree to do what they tell me to do." - Fata, blind 11 year-old girl, Mali
In rural areas, the distance between home and school is a major obstacle to schooling for girls with disabilities. For students who walk to school, long distances pose a safety risk. And the cost of transportation is often too expensive for families.
In Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, experiments in inclusive education for children with sensory impairments are successful. The conditions for success are based on an assessment of the child's needs and the commitment of teaching staff who are proficient in sign language or Braille.
"The first year was not easy learning Braille. I didn't feel comfortable. But now it's okay. As time went by, I managed to make friends and we learned to understand each other. I would like to go to high school in Senegal and become a lawyer in my country." - Daouda, 16-year-old girl with low vision, Mali
Importance of education
It is estimated that an additional year of study can increase a woman's income by 20%. If all adults in the world had completed secondary education, the world poverty rate would be halved.
Limited access to education leads to low participation in the world of work. In some low- and middle-income countries, the cost of excluding people with disabilities from the workforce is as high as 7% of gross domestic product.
Reducing inequalities between girls and boys in how they access education could boost the economy by between $112 billion and $152 billion each year in low- and middle-income countries.
Image: Oumou, 9, who has an amputation, sits behind her desk. She is a beneficiary of the Humanity & Inclusive Education project in Mali. Copyright: Pascale Jérôme Kantoussan/HI
Trésor calls his brace “libende,” which means “piece of iron” in the Lingala language. Trésor is fond of the brace, which has helped him live a normal life after he contracted polio when he was 3. He’s 12 now.
One of nine children, Trésor and his family live among the sprawling suburbs of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where Trésor’s mother sells biscuits on the side of the road.
When Trésor was 3, he came down with a bad fever and his parents rushed him to the hospital.
“I remember when my little brother got polio like it was yesterday,” said Nsumbu-Mateka, Trésor’s older brother. “It wasn’t long before we realized Trésor would never regain the use of his left leg. We were so shocked. He couldn't play or run around like before. Our parents were really unhappy about it but there was nothing they could do.”
After Trésor lost use of his leg and his ability to walk, Nsumbu-Mateka saw that he wasn’t able to participate in every day activities.
"There are a lot of people like my brother around here, but unfortunately most never leave home,” Nsumbu-Mateka explained. “The children don’t go to school. They can’t move around, and in some ways, they’re excluded from the community."
Wanting better for his younger brother, Nsumbu-Mateka began looking into educational opportunities for Trésor. He learned of a school in their neighborhood that accepts children with disabilities. Thanks to his brother’s advocacy, Trésor attended his first day of school when he was 9. That’s where Trésor met Humanity & Inclusion’s team, which works to promote school enrollment for children with disabilities.
Through its inclusive education project, Humanity & Inclusion ensures that schools are accessible for children with reduced mobility, trains teachers to adapt their lessons for students with disabilities, and works to provide individual support to children with disabilities.
Trésor was one of those children. Humanity & Inclusion arranged for Trésor to visit a local orthopedic center, where he received a pair of crutches, a brace, and a custom-made orthopedic shoe. Through donor support, Humanity & Inclusion continues to work with Trésor, providing the growing boy on average two new braces each year.
Now, with his “libende” and crutches, Trésor walks 45 minutes to school each day. He particularly loves calculus and French, and dreams of becoming a doctor one day so he can care for others. His classmates are amazed by his willpower and happy to call him their friend.
Trésor loves spending time with his family, especially his brother, Nsumbu-Mateka. He plays games and draws cartoons. But most of all, Trésor enjoys paying a few cents to rent a bike and showing the other children that he can ride a bike, just like them.
First photo: A young boy named Trésor crouches down while playing a game with bottle caps outside his home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has a big smile. He is wearing a bright blue plaid shirt, jeans, blue and black tennis shoes, and a brace on his left leg.
Second photo: Trésor sits on a table and has his foot measured during a consultation with Humanity & Inclusion staff. His is wearing a white shirt and shorts. He is barefoot.
Third photo: Trésor sits in a chair, holding a yellow soccer ball. He has a big smile. He is wearing a bright blue plaid shirt, jeans, blue and black tennis shoes, and a brace on his left leg. His crutches are leaning on the wall beside him.
Amie loves school and seeing her friends in the classroom, but she struggles to hold her pencil. Born with a physical disability that causes weakness of her limbs and coordination issues, Amie has difficulties using her arms, hands and legs. Now, through modifications made to Amie’s school in Sierra Leone and personalized instruction in the classroom, Amie has the support she needs and is learning to read and write.
Through one of its many education projects in Sierra Leone, Humanity & Inclusion teamed Amie with Abdul, an itinerant teacher who is trained to work with students with disabilities. Abdul visits Amie at school twice a month and checks in on her at her rural home each week. Working closely with Amie’s teacher and parents, Abdul developed an individual education plan for the spunky 7-year-old. Every month they meet to go over Amie’s progress and make sure she’s receiving the support she needs.
Amie also happens to attend SLMB Primary School in Mano Junction, Kenema, which is one of the Girls Education Challenge Transition initiative’s model schools that has been outfitted with ramps, accessible toilets, wider doorways, classrooms with larger windows and brighter paint to assist students with low vision to make learning more accessible for students like Amie who are living with disabilities.
Today, Amie is a confident little girl who is feeling more supported in school and destined to succeed.
Humanity & Inclusion’s inclusive education project in Gaza, in the Palestinian Territories, provides Nermeen and her daughter Shahed with personalized support and counseling at school and at home.
Shahed, 13, has a physical and learning disability. In the past, her mother, Nermeen, was not closely involved in her daughter's education and found it hard to convince her family to accept invitations from the school. "I didn’t take part in outdoor activities because I was afraid of the negative attitude of my family and friends,” says Nermeen. “I avoided situations where people might make comments or give me accusing looks. I had to stay at home.”
Perceptions of disability
A support group for parents of children with disabilities helped Nermeen overcome her concerns. “I made my daughter my priority. I chose to be strong and with support from the school and the group, I finally convinced my family. I’m free to take part in lots of different school activities now," she explains.
Bringing families out of isolation
The group gives parents a chance to share their daily experiences and problems. This successful initiative provides them with a support network inside and outside meetings. Mothers like Nermeen no longer feel alone: "If I have a problem, I know where to go.”
Looking forward to school
Teachers are in regular contact with Nermeen. They update her on her daughter's progress and use a liaison diary to exchange ideas with her, as they do with other parents. As a result, Shahed and her mother communicate with each other more, and she is more fulfilled. "She feels comfortable at school—she’s happy. She has made a lot of friends. When she wakes up, she can’t wait to go to school.”
Following multiple bouts of severe malaria, Sougleman, 8, lost much of her sense of hearing and ability to speak. “Despite the medical care, my daughter was left with permanent disabilities,” says Nagwabe, Sougleman’s father. “Suddenly, she could not hold an object with her hands like she used to. She did not hear much anymore and she was no longer able to speak.”
Once one of the most talented students in her class in Tandjoaré, Togo, Sougleman had to leave school for more than a year because of her illness. At home, she could not communicate with her family and she was totally dependent on others. However, her father, also a teacher, believed in her ability to go back to school and succeed in her studies.
Thanks to an inclusive education project launched by Humanity & Inclusion and its partner, Educate A Child, Sougleman was able to return to school. She received lessons in sign language and is being mentored Damipi Lamboni, a special needs teacher who works with children with hearing and intellectual disabilities.
Lamboni tutors students and helps them with homework. He also trains teachers in sign language so that they can communicate directly with students without hearing. This support had a huge impact in the classroom for students like Sougleman.
"I am very pleased to see positive changes in Sougleman,” says her teacher Koffi Kombate. “She is more involved during lessons and better included by her classmates. In many ways, she is ahead of many of the students without disabilities.”
"My wish is that she continues and succeeds in her school career,” says Sougleman’s father. “I am very optimistic.”
In addition to supporting special needs teachers like Damipi Lamboni, Humanity & Inclusion and its partner Educate a Child help children with disabilities and their families by connecting them with rehabilitation services, medical care, and other support. The organization also works with the government and local communities to promote the inclusion of children with disabilities in school.
In Nepal, most primary school students are unable to read at grade level. The outlook is dire for Nepali children with disabilities, since Nepali children’s capacity and adaptability to learn are rarely screened.
Starting this month, Humanity & Inclusion will tip the balance so more Nepali children can thrive at school and become strong readers. The project, Reading for All, is possible thanks to a generous USAID grant.
The transformative project comes at a perfect moment. In 2017, Humanity & Inclusion (then working under the name ‘Handicap International’) conducted a pilot screening. With funding from World Education and UNICEF, our teams met children between the ages of four and seven years old to assess them for functional limitations. The teams found 26% of children were at risk of at least some kind of hearing, sight, mobility, communication, learning or concentration limitation, with 9.4% classified as having a disability.
“We are thrilled that USAID Nepal placed its trust in Humanity & Inclusion by funding this important reading project,” said Willy Bergogne, Country Director for the Nepal office of Humanity & Inclusion. “Together, we’ll reach thousands of Nepali children with disabilities, supporting them to achieve better reading outcomes and promoting inclusive education all over Nepal.”
The three-year project focuses on children in grades 1 – 3 in the 16 districts participating in Nepal’s early grade reading program. Working together with local and national partners, the project will improve data quality on children with disabilities.
The team will also enhance institutional and technical capacity to deliver quality reading instruction and support to children with disabilities. Currently, Nepal’s teachers are highly dependent on traditional teaching methods, with little supportive supervision and feedback from the children. The result is a significant communication gap between educator and learner. By 2021, Reading for All will have reached 6,775 head teachers in each of the targeted districts.
Finally, the team will test inclusive instructional models so they can benefit more children with disabilities. Trainers will ensure that teaching and curriculum development professionals in Nepal have the skills to improve and sustain the Reading for All tools and results.
Partnering for success
Partners at World Education, Nepal Association for the Welfare of the Blind, National Federation of the Deaf Nepal, and Disable Empowerment and Communication Center are helping to implement the Reading for All project.
“With strong partners in the Government of Nepal, among the USAID Nepal team, and with other local actors, this ambitious initiative is set up to help Nepali children with disabilities to succeed,” Bergogne adds.
In the project's first year, Reading for All will reach 2,071 schools in four districts (likely Banke, Surkhet, Bhaktapur, and Kaski). Teams will train head teachers, who will then lead early detection screenings for 178,117 children through grade 3. In its second year, after fine-tuning the process, Reading for All will roll out to the remaining 12 districts, reaching about 557,828 students.
Photo caption: Deaf students learn in an inclusive classroom in Nepal.
Inclusive Education for all | My chance to tell world leaders not to leave children with disabilities behind
This post was written by Monique Guenoune and originally appeared on the Global Partnership for Education's blog.
My name is Monique Guenoune and I am 23 years old. I live in Rufisque, a small town close to Dakar. I was born deaf, along with 4 of my 5 brothers and sisters. My parents are also both deaf and we use sign language to communicate in my family. Almost all of our family’s friends are also deaf.
It was difficult to get an education when I grew up. The local school did not accept children like me, because they thought we couldn’t learn; none of the teachers could use sign language and they weren’t trained in teaching deaf children.
An impossible choice: education or family
My father found out about a school for children with hearing impairments in Dakar, and I went there for a while, but I had to live away from home in a host family who treated me very badly. When my father found out about it, he came and brought me back home. He then inquired at a private school for deaf children, but he couldn’t afford to send me there. After this, I stayed at home and started to do some odd jobs like cleaning.
When a local association started to offer sign language literacy courses, my brothers and sisters started to attend. Transport was expensive and it was dangerous to travel along the busy roads with many horses, carts, and cars. My sister was hit by a horse along the way, because she couldn’t hear it coming. My dad decided it was best for all of us to stay at home and so none of the children of the family attended school.
A new program offers hope
Then in 2016 a community-based worker – Babacar – called our house. He could sign and told us that the local school was now becoming inclusive. The teachers were being trained in sign language and in inclusive teaching methods, and he himself had been recruited as a teaching assistant to support the deaf children and the teacher in class.
Now my younger brother and sister (both still primary aged) would be welcomed there! I was so pleased that they had been given the chance that I never had. My sister is doing so well there now, she is at the top of her class! She is showing everyone that being deaf doesn’t stop you from making it to the top.
Monique's sister Marieme and her classmates at an inclusive school in Senegal.
A chance to speak up in front of world leaders
People from Humanity & Inclusion, who support this inclusive school, came to my house with a sign language interpreter and they told me about an important education conference happening in Dakar.
I found out that it was a huge international conference, with world leaders, coming to talk about the importance of education and how they needed to spend much more money on education to make sure that ALL children have the chance to go to school.
They asked if I could speak at the conference about the importance of education for children with disabilities, on behalf of my younger siblings and all the children with disabilities in Senegal. I was very honored to do that, although a little bit nervous at first since I have never attended a conference, let alone spoken at one!
Getting the necessary resources for inclusive education
But once I understood what I needed to say, and that people just wanted to hear my story and the story of my siblings, I felt more relaxed. It was exciting to be part of the youth forum and to give my opinion when they asked questions about what needed to go into the youth statement. I was very pleased that all the other youth advocates in the room listened to what I had to say, through my interpreter, and they included my points in the statement.
I made the point that teacher training should include a focus on sign language and on trainings for children with all types of disabilities, and that children with disabilities should be able to go to school.
The next day I was on stage twice. I was pleased that the audience seemed to be interested in what I was saying. The moderator asked me who should be the best person to champion inclusive education in Senegal. And I said the economics minister, as he is the man with the money, and money is what we need to make sure every child gets an education!
After this session, I gave an interview and lots of people seemed interested to hear my story. It was exciting that people wanted to hear what I had to say. Some people also were interested to learn some basic signs, including some of my new friends from the youth forum.
All children deserve an education
My two days at the conference were an exciting and a new experience, and a real change to my everyday life. In fact this conference has given me a new focus to renew my own education as an adult.
I was glad to have the chance to bring my message to such a big audience and to hopefully make a difference.
I want people to realize that children with disabilities, like deaf children, have just as much right to go to school as any other child.
They shouldn’t be left behind any more. I am glad things are changing, from the days when I went to school, and was forced to drop out.