How child-to-child clubs help to challenge stigma

Catherine Alejo

Catherine Alejo is our Programme Manager in Uganda and Tanzania. She tells us about Varian and Aksa's friendship and the positive impact child-to-child clubs can have.

Two girls sitting outside school smiling at each other.

Support from friends and classmates play a really important role in making disabled students feel included at school. But for some disabled students, stigma and a lack of education about disability can make school a negative experience. In Tanzania, Varian and Aksa have been supporting each other at school thanks to our child-to-child clubs.

For the last three years, we’ve been working to support children with disabilities near Dodoma, Tanzania. The project has been funded by Comic Relief, in partnership with Tanzania Cheshire Foundation and Miyuji Cheshire Home. The inclusive education programme aims to help disabled children access mainstream schools. And child-to-child clubs are an important part of this.

Meet Varian and Aksa

Varian has a visual impairment, and Aksa has a physical disability. Before the inclusive education programme, both Aksa and Varian had experienced bullying. They’d even spent many lunch breaks alone. Other students would call them bad names. They treated them differently because of their disabilities. Aksa had felt segregated at school and really wanted some supportive friends.

Once Varian and Aksa enrolled in the child-to-child clubs, things changed. They quickly formed a bond and were able to support each other. But they also made other friends too. The clubs are attended by children with and without disabilities. This integration is really important in helping to break down some of the myths and misconceptions about disability.

Why children clubs are important

The clubs help create friendly, supportive environments where children can learn more about disability. They can participate in group discussions. And find out more about how to make more inclusive environments at school. By attending the clubs, Varian also learnt a very important lesson – all children have equal rights, especially when it comes to education.

As well as talking about disability issues, the clubs also provide fun activities for the children. This includes sports, games, drama, songs, poetry, storytelling and drawing.

Varian likes singing and is always participating in the school singing clubs. The clubs are inclusive and include various members from the child-to-child club. Aksa, on the other hand, likes acting. She is one of the best actors at the school.

Varian and Aksa have become really good friends through the club. They enjoy making stories together. And by building on their friendship in the club, their confidence has also grown in class at school.

The impact of child-to-child clubs

Talking about the impact of the clubs on her life, Aksa said: “the child-to-child club has helped me to get a friend whom I am collaborating with in class. And outside the class I now see myself having someone whom I can share my feelings with.”

Since the project began, discrimination at the school has reduced. Aksa and Varian no longer experience bullying. The other students and teachers are now much more inclusive in their attitudes. And as a result, both Varian and Aksa are more confident.