Keeping disabled students connected in lockdown

Catherine Alejo

Catherine Alejo is our Programme Manager in Uganda and Tanzania. She talks about how we've been working with children with disabilities in Uganda to ensure they can continue to access education through the coronavirus pandemic.

Two men sitting on the floor outside a building, they are looking a sheet of paper.

Every child has a right to an education. Yet, many children with disabilities around the world have not had the opportunity to attend school. And with that, they have missed out on crucial opportunities to socialise and learn essential skills. In Uganda, we’ve worked to ensure children with disabilities have could continue to access to education through the pandemic.

Our inclusive education project, funded by Dubai Cares, enrolled and retained more than 500 children with disabilities in school. It reached children in the remote district of Amolatar in Uganda. Many of these children had previously been out of school. Now they have access to support and skills building at school, paving the way for a bright future. The project ran for three years with the support of Cheshire Services Uganda.

How we supported disabled students during the pandemic

However, when the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020, education around the world was seriously affected. In Uganda, all learning institutions closed down indefinitely. So the project team had to adapt quickly. They worked to ensure children with disabilities still got the support they needed to keep on learning. 

They quickly got to work distributing learning materials. They reached students across nine sub-counties and two town councils in the Amolatar District. Cheshire Services Uganda also produced accessible learning materials for visually impaired children in both braille and large print. This was something that the government hadn’t considered in their materials. So it was essential that the students had access to materials that suited their needs. 

The project team engaged with the local community. They worked with council leaders and parents to share the materials. The project staff also spoke to parents about how they could support their children with learning until the schools opened again.

What support helped Bonny to continue studying

18-year-old Bonny, who has a visual impairment, was able to continue studying at home thanks to the materials provided. He also received support from his elder brother, who is a primary teacher, twice a week. His brother helped him with his maths, social studies and English during the lockdown period at home. 

Bonny really appreciated Cheshire Services Uganda for providing him with learning materials during the lockdown. “I gained a lot of new knowledge through reading the learning materials,” he said. “My elder brother also coaches me using these learning materials. I am hopeful will enable me pass my final Primary Leaving Examination well.” 

Bonny enjoyed learning from home with his brother. However, he also missed interacting at school with his classmates and teachers. He looked forward to getting back into the classroom.

How Ronald was able to continue studying from home

17-year-old Ronald also carried on learning from home with support from his family. His father and older sister both wanted to help with his studies. His father, who is a member of the Village Health Team, worked with Ronald at the weekends.

Together they read storybooks in English to help with Ronald’s literary skills. His sister, who is a student at Amolatar Secondary School, also helped Ronald with his maths, science and general studies. With their support and the learning materials, Ronald was able to stay engaged with his studies. 

He said: “I feel happy because I continue to learn from home though schools are closed. This has been possible because of the learning materials given to me by Cheshire Services Uganda.”