Reducing stigma one classroom at a time

29 November 2018

Samantha Sanangurai, our Regional Representative for Zambia / Southern Africa, talks about how the work we do affects thousands of children with disability across East Africa each year.Leonard Cheshire has been responsible for the introduction of inclusive education – where disabled and non-disabled children share the same classrooms - across Africa and Asia for some time.  The way we work with communities and break down stigma around disability is proven and increasingly sophisticated. 

It has been particularly successful in Eastern Africa, especially Kenya where we have been responsible for enrolling over 2000 girls with disabilities in school from the ages of 5 to 22.  Over 600 teachers have also been skilled up, with thousands more beneficiaries in the shape of fellow pupils and parents. 

Difficulties for children with disabilities include inaccessible school environments, negative community attitudes, inadequate teacher skills and a deep-rooted stigma amongst families and communities, that at worse, can result in isolation and abuse. 

We are now embarking on a new inclusive education project in Zambia, confident in the knowledge that it’s a system that works.

This is what we’re working on:

  • The establishment of thirty Child-to-Child Clubs, which have proved an excellent way of influencing communities and raising awareness so non-disabled peers can become strong advocates for the rights of their friends with disabilities
  • ​The roll out of thirty parent support groups involving those with and without disabled children.  These groups often become close-knit and empowered to speak at schools and community groups about increasing understanding and acceptance.
  • The roll out of thirty teacher-to-teacher peer groups to help colleagues embarking on new methods of education.

A girl in the playground at school in zambia meets with her friendsWe also empower disabled adults to be part of our influencing work.  Relevant government officials, representatives of  Disabled Peoples Organisations and the media form part of five district inclusive education committees and we will look to reach an initial 600 children with disabilities in the Eastern province of Zambia across Chipata, Katete, Nyimba, Petauke and Sinda. 

Finally, by working closely with the Zambian Ministry of Education and the main teacher training institutions, Leonard Cheshire aims to further establish this proven system of inclusive education.

With over 700 disabled children in line for new educational opportunities and over 100 teachers set to be trained in inclusive training methods, we will continue to break down stigma, one classroom at a time.

Samantha Sanangurai is the Leonard Cheshire Regional Representative for Zambia/Southern Africa

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