International Needs Uganda was founded on providing education for vulnerable and orphaned children. At its inception in 1994, their focus was supporting children orphaned by HIV/ Aids. International Needs Uganda now run three schools and provide child sponsorship for over 3,000 children but few children with disabilities attended.
Where we work in rural Uganda there are many misconceptions about disability and many people with disabilities face discrimination, stigmatisation and even abuse. Many families who have a disabled child born to them often believe they have been cursed. Due to these local perceptions and a lack of government provision, very few children with disabilities go to school.
The Disability Inclusion Project begins in 2017:
In 2017 we partnered with UNESCO Chair and The British & Foreign School Society (BFSS), to deliver an innovative Disability Inclusion Project in Buikwe District, Uganda which uses sport as a tool for inclusion. Sport is as an effective way to raise awareness and start to challenge discriminatory perceptions of disability. Sport can be used to engage with disabled children to grow their confidence and character while encouraging friendships and team building.
Following its success, the programme was extended. Since 2017, when the project began, we have seen great changes in the inclusion, integration and progress of disabled children in the schools where we work. Between 2017 and 2018, we saw a 13% increase in the enrolment of children with disabilities into mainstream schools. These are children who were not going to school.
The goal of the programme is for disabled children to be valued and included in schools and by the community. We will do this by improving their access to education, supporting families of disabled children to set up small businesses, equipping teachers and schools to provide better teaching and learning for disabled children and supporting church and community leaders to provide much needed psychosocial support in 65 schools around Buikwe, Mukono and Kayunga Districts in Uganda. We also promote the importance of inclusion using inclusive sports activities and a sports festival.
We want to help over 1,000 disabled children currently attending 65 schools to be able to access the empowerment benefits of sports and to encourage families of children with disabilities to be enroll them into school.
To achieve these goals, in 2021 and beyond we are:
The key outcomes of the programme is to create societal change and change attitudes. We want to see the negative attitudes and behaviours towards disabled children reversed and for local communities to become inclusive. We want to see disabled children who are loved, happy and valued. We want the stigma attached to disability to be eradicated so that disabled children can live fruitful lives and no one is left behind.
For the new three-year project starting in 2021, we need to raise £90,000 to run this programme. Can you partner with us?
May 19th, 2021
Integrating Disabled Children into Schools in Uganda
In Uganda, disabled children face an uncertain future. The discrimination that disabled children and their families face is rooted in negative beliefs and stigma that disability is a curse and that having a disabled child means the family must have done something wrong. Disabled children become invisible, often hidden away at home and kept out of sight. These attitudes trigger a vicious cycle that limits the opportunities and agency of disabled children and denies them of their basic human rights.
Education is the best investment you can give to any child. Yet in Uganda 91% of disabled children do not go to school. Those who do have to deal with bullying and discrimination and teachers lack knowledge on how to adjust for the different learning or support needs of disabled children. Despite the government’s efforts through domestic legislation, policy and international commitments like the Sustainable Development Goals to integrate disabled children into schools, they remain one of the most vulnerable groups in society who face multiple barriers to education and employment.
One way that International Needs has addressed this issue is by using sport to break down barriers of inclusion. Sport encourages better health, education and social inclusion and is recognised as a way to promote tolerance and respect by empowering women, young people, individuals and communities. In 2017, we collaborated with UNESCO Chair on a pioneering project called Plan2Inclusivize, which used sport to engage disabled children in play and physical education and trained teachers on making sports activities more inclusive. The project which has expanded to 40 schools, focuses on four key beneficiary groups: disabled children, their families, teachers and the local community across 40 schools in Buikwe District and has seen a significant increase in enrolment of disabled children.
The project has helped disabled children become more active and confident in class and play. Ramps, walkways and toilets have been modified to increase mobility and make school premises more accessible. Schools received a variety of sport materials which has encouraged able-bodied children to play with disabled children building friendships between them. School teachers trained in disability inclusion have an understanding of the biblical perspectives of disability and how to write inclusive school policies. Teachers have responded with enthusiasm; they feel confident to adapt their teaching to support the learning needs of disabled children and have developed better skills to handle inclusion. Families of disabled children have been supported to set up small businesses like goat rearing or food stalls which helps them earn extra income to meet the needs of their disabled child and family. We have hosted sports festivals to celebrate disabled children and show parents and the community the importance of investing in their future.
As we look to expand the project to include more schools, one of our supporters, Reverend Tim Goode, the Disability Advisor for Southwark Diocese shared his reflections on his first visit to Uganda and how this project challenges attitudes, access and agency. When families believe that having a disabled child is a curse, they keep them out of sight and hidden away from the community. When we have disabling attitudes, this builds barriers to access, which denies agency and this goes on to reinforce disabling attitudes creating a vicious cycle. By challenging disabling attitudes as this project does, the walls to access collapse and people have agency which again challenges disabling attitudes even more and the vicious cycle turns into a virtuous cycle. The project has highlighted that by engaging with people who are different, we replace fear with love and friendship which is transforming the lives of disabled children for the future prosperity of Uganda.
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