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Making school more accessible for children with disabilities

In a classroom of 65 students, it’s easy to fall through the cracks – especially if you’ve got a disability. For John, a 7-year-old boy attending primary school in Nairobi, Kenya, keeping on top of his studies can be challenging.

That’s because John was born with brain damage, resulting in learning disabilities that make it hard for him to stay focused for long periods of time. Not knowing how to manage their son’s disability, John’s parents kept him at home; believing school wasn’t the place for a boy like him.

John is not alone

A young boy smiles on the street

John, 7, has a learning disability that makes it hard for him to focus in school.

According to the World Health Organization, there are 150 million children with disabilities in the world today. This overwhelming number includes a range of disabilities: learning (like John), physical, communication and visual.

In many developing countries, children with disabilities are less likely to attend school. When they do, their level of schooling is generally below that of their peers. But this was about to change for John.

Making space for every child in the classroom

With the help of Plan, 13 schools across Nairobi were provided with the tools and training needed to ensure children with disabilities receive the education they deserve. When the new curriculum was introduced, a door opened for countless children, just like John.

“Before there were no opportunities for families [that have children with disabilities] in the area,” explains Lydia Wandaka, a school teacher from Nairobi. “Now we go to great lengths to ensure they are part of the school community and receive the same tuition as their classmates.”

The Plan-supported curriculum also provides students with resources to manage their disabilities with greater ease at school, like walkers, and games and toys to help improve motor skill development. Helping children with disabilities feel comfortable in their own skin is a crucial part of Plan’s agenda.

Teaching acceptance and inclusion

Teachers are a big part of what makes this project successful. Plan ensures all teachers receive adequate training so they can adjust their teaching methods according to the needs of each child. This means children with learning disabilities, like John, and children with physical disabilities receive suitable care to help them thrive in a school environment.

“We work with families to improve disabled children’s self-esteem, and encourage classmates and the community to respect disabled children,” explains Lydia. It’s a new way of teaching and thinking that’s affected the entire community, not just the students.

The proof is in the pudding

For John and his family, the impact was felt immediately. They’ve noticed a difference at home, in the classroom and within their community. Teachers and classmates respect John and allow him to participate equally with his fellow classmates.

“John is a happy boy,” said John’s uncle. “Although we are uncertain as to what opportunities he will have in the future, it means something that every day he can go to school. And we are so proud that today he can write his own name. It makes a difference.”

You can make a difference in the lives of children just like John!