Developing child-centred teaching and learning for inclusion, Burundi

Elie Sabuwanka

Ensuring that children with disabilities can participate in education within inclusive, mainstream schools is not always about complex solutions. In this article, Elie outlines some fundamental child-centred teaching and learning approaches that have been used in Handicap International's project in Burundi to support the inclusion of all children in higher quality education provision.

The context
Burundi subscribed to the Millennium Development Goals and is committed to Education for All. Since 2005, education has been one of the government's most important priorities. Although elementary education is not obligatory, children do not pay primary school fees. Consequently, school attendance rates have risen from 63.5% in 2000 to 134.6 % in 2010. This figure, representative of the total number of children expected to enrol that year, is high due to many children enrolling late and/or repeating classes.

Nevertheless, the education of children with disabilities is left to private initiatives (mostly religious ones). The few children with disabilities who have access to school attend a few specialised centres, not recognised by the Ministry of Education.

Pilot inclusive education project
Handicap International therefore started a pilot inclusive education project in 2010, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and a disabled people's organisation, UPHB (Union des Personnes Handicapées du Burundi). The project is being implemented in six pilot primary schools, and at a lower scale in 45 other satellite schools in the provinces of Bujumbura Mayorship and Gitega.

This pilot is contributing to quality improvements in education. Changes are being noticed in teachers' behaviour and job understanding. Generally, the school inspection office considers achievement of the school syllabus to be the most important criteria against which to measure teachers' work. Hence, many teachers think primarily about the syllabus and the different topics they teach; they rarely think about the conditions of the children who will benefit from their teaching. The pilot project is changing this.

Simple but effective approaches
The pilot project's added value is that children are now considered as the centre of the education system. On registration day, the head teacher gets as much information as he/she can about each child. Parents do not always talk about their child's situation, so the head discusses with them and the child to learn more about his/her abilities. Any impairments are identified so that the school can provide better support.

Teachers are advised to know and use the names of every pupil in their classes, rather than saying "you..." and pointing to the child, as they have done in the past. This simple step is particularly important for children with disabilities who are daily discriminated against and called names which refer to their impairment.

Each child with a disability has an individual education plan (IEP) defining his/her learning and socialisation objectives according to his/her abilities. The IEP proposes teaching and learning strategies. Parents, teachers and the children meet regularly to evaluate the IEPs and the children's progress, and to set new objectives and action plans.

Teachers are advised to use the IEP and think first about the kind of pupils they have in their class: during the lesson preparation phase, during the teaching period, and when planning for evaluation. A more child-centred teaching pedagogy is set up and all pupils, disabled or not, benefit from it. This kind of pedagogy allows children to interact and to feel more valued and included.

Contact: Elie Sabuwanka
Inclusive Education Project Manager
Handicap International Burundi Programme
PO Box: 5219 Mutanga I, Bujumbura, Burundi
Email: ;

 


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