How inclusive education supports both mother and daughter

Catherine Alejo

Catherine Alejo is our Programme Manager in Uganda and Tanzania. She tells us about the impact our inclusive education has had on Shadya and her mother Amina.

Shadya and her mother Amina sitting peeling vegetables

Shadya lives in Tanzania with her mother Amina and two siblings. Amina has been raising her children alone and really wanted them to have an education.

There was lots of stigma around disability in the community, particularly around schooling. But Amina wanted Shadya to have the same opportunities as her peers. So she enrolled her in a local mainstream school. 

Bullied for her disability

But when Shadya started school, she was bullied about her disability. It made her really unhappy. Some days she didn’t want to go to school at all. She was worried about being laughed at by other children. Amina wanted to get Shadya physiotherapy at the hospital to help. But it was too expensive. This left Amina feeling like she might have to take Shadya out of school.

Around the same time, Shadya’s school was identified as part of Leonard Cheshire’s “Investing in Futures” inclusive education project, funded by Comic Relief. The project was delivered in partnership with Tanzania Cheshire Foundation (TCF) and Miyuji Cheshire Home (MCH). It aimed to create school environments that fostered inclusive learning for children with disabilities. It educated both teachers and children on the importance of inclusive education and working with parents in the community to change attitudes towards disability. 

Creating a friendly environment

During an assessment process, the project identified Shadya as a child we could offer additional support to. After being enrolled, she was able to receive physiotherapy at the regional hospital. As soon as Shadya became involved in the project, Amina knew it was right for her to stay in school. 

Shadya is now much happier in school. The project provided her with school uniform and learning materials. But more importantly, it helped create a friendly school environment where other children had a better understanding of disability. Shadya now has more friends both at school and at home.

Reflecting on her journey and her mother’s support, Shadya said: “My mother loves me a lot. She always takes time to encourage me that I can do more than others in my school performances. Sometimes my mother gives me gifts when I come back from school.

"She always takes my exercise books to see what we have been taught and if there is homework to do. She always makes sure that I complete every homework given by my teachers. My academic performance is improving always. We are learning together with my friends in a class. I am happy now with my school.”

Why we need to support parents

The project also supported Amina. Part of the inclusive education project was the formation of Parent Support Groups (PSGs) where parents of children with and without disabilities could talk about challenges and overcome barriers. Amina joined the PSG in her local village. 

Being part of the group has helped her improve her business opportunities. Amina had a small business selling snacks. But it gave her little income. Through the PSGs, Amina received training to help improve her business skills.

The knowledge she gained meant she was able to expand her business. And the project also provided funds through the PSGs that Amina was able to use to help increase her revenue. Now she can buy products in bulk and sell them for a good profit, ultimately helping to support Shadya with her school uniform and materials. 

Seeing the benefits of the inclusive education project, Amina encourages other parents of children with disabilities to send their children to school too. 

Amina said: “Thanks to God by giving us chance to be involved with the inclusive education project team. Through them my daughter and I are now happy. Shadya is confident to participate in learning process like other children. Shadya has many friends now. The project made me confident to support my daughter without shame.”