Using inclusive methods to teach inclusive education in Mozambique
Diane Mills and Joana Carolina Jaime
In this article, Diane, a teacher trainer, and Joana, a trainee teacher, present their perspectives on a course designed to help teachers learn about inclusive education by experiencing it themselves.
I was given a volunteer placement in Maxixe, in the Inhambane Province of Mozambique, to implement a pilot programme on Inclusive Education at the local Pedagogical University. Inclusive education was a new concept at the university, and the Portuguese language was also new me. Therefore, the easiest and most effective way to implement the work was to pilot the course with the English Department.
I included the English professors in the planning process and we targeted second year students: 40 signed up for the course, but we decided to start with a smaller group of 15. The students were selected for attitude and commitment rather than their academic progress. All four female students who signed up were included, as so few young women were training to be teachers and many dropped out before completing their studies.
The course ran for one term, two evenings per week, totalling 24 hours of class time.
- the importance of inclusive education and the rights of children
- disability awareness: an overview of different disabilities and prevention of impairments
- children who have visual and hearing impairments
- identification and early intervention
- community awareness
- the support network – ‘working together’
- child-centred education – including individual education plans
- practical teaching strategies
- classroom management
- course evaluation.
It is not possible to teach inclusion using noninclusive methods. Everyone learns better by doing and seeing inclusive education working effectively, rather than focusing on theory.
Our sessions involved lots of discussion – once the students realised that we would all listen to each other’s ideas they became much more confident.
Most of the students came from small villages, so we focused on their communities. I encouraged them to talk about their local contexts and about children who were not in school, e.g., the children with disabilities who did nothing all day and were ignored because everyone assumed they could do nothing. We discussed negative attitudes and how we, as teachers, could make significant changes within our communities. When we talked about support networks the students were enthusiastic and full of ideas – they immediately knew who could be involved and, therefore, who to talk to first in their schools and communities.
Most course assignments were completed either in groups or in pairs. Once the students became more confident I encouraged them to come with ideas for lesson activities, materials to use, even games and ice-breakers. At the end of each session we spent time on evaluation: ‘What did you enjoy? What did you learn?’ The students realised the children they teach can also learn and enjoy themselves in the same way!
The idea of using basic teaching resources was a new concept for the students. I demonstrated that you can use the same teaching aids for the whole class, even though you were thinking of just one or two children when you made them (e.g., large print for some children, etc). I had no budget for the course so I very rarely threw anything away. I used food boxes, tins, bottle tops, magazines, string, anything I thought the students would also have in their homes or communities to use to make interesting teaching resources. The students became very inventive using their own ideas.
Throughout the course we did role play, singing, games, and indoor and outdoor activities. One of the most enjoyable sessions was a ‘quiz night’ where the groups moved around the classroom to engage in: sentence building, word building, questions and answers, even picture/word matching. All15 students participated fully – even though they have different abilities. I highlighted the importance of spending time on planning lessons to make sure they are well organised, interesting and fun for their classes.
Students on the inclusive education course
“I chose Joana to do the course because she was so interested in inclusive education. She was interested in broadening her teaching skills but needed to build her confidence. She also needed to improve her English skills.” (Diane)
I was so happy to be chosen for this course. I didn’t really know what inclusive education was, I just thought it was about different teaching methods – that it would teach me different skills. I had never even thought about disabled children going to school, even though we have a disabled student here at the university.
One session at the beginning I will always remember – we were given a picture of a girl in a wheelchair and a small boy is saying to her, ‘Are you disabled?’ The girl replied, ‘No, I’m Isabel’. Diane gave us a copy of the picture and told us to think about the message – we were to discuss it next session. It made me realise that we have to see the person and not the disability. Before the course, if I saw a blind person I wanted to talk to I would say, ‘Hey crego’, which means ‘hey blind’ – now I know this is wrong and I have to see the person not just her/his disability.
I enjoyed every part of the course. Even though some of the others can speak better English than me, I was always taking part in the lessons. We all listened to each other’s ideas and everyone listened to me. I think my English is getting better now I have done the course. The lessons were different, we did different things and we even brought our own ideas to class and tried them.
I thought the main part of the course would be about teaching methods. I enjoyed that part and I learned a lot, but we also did a lot about the community and how we can help change people’s attitudes. One of our three main assignments was to plan a community activity or event to tell everyone about inclusive education. People focused on the church, the youth group or their schools. The event had to be interesting, enjoyable and we had to make sure everyone knew about it so they would attend. My plan was for something at the University to tell all the students and professors about inclusion.
Everyone on the course talked in class about our different attitudes and our change of behaviour. The class was very open and we could discuss the way things are in our communities; how children are hidden away, etc. We talked about things we could do in the community to change things – open people’s eyes – so they can help with inclusive education. We all know it is very important to involve the community.
When I am teaching I now feel I will be OK if I have a disabled child in my class – I will be able to teach them the same way as the other children. I think I would now have the confidence to carry out my activity at the University – to tell everyone about inclusion. I would be able to tell my friends and other people near my home – especially the ones who work at the clinic. I think it will be difficult to tell the other teachers at my school – perhaps they won’t listen to me because I am only young and still a student and they have been teaching for a long time.
Half way through the course we had a big conference at the University on inclusive education. I helped to organise it and attended every session. If we have another conference next year I would be able to give a presentation and talk about everything I learned on the course.
Diane was a VSO volunteer Inclusive Education Advisor from 2003 to 2010, first in Namibia and then Mozambique. She is now in Namibia running Namibian Children’s Community Vision (NCCV): www.nccv.org.co.uk
Joana is a second-year student teacher at UP Sagrada Familiar in Maxixe. Contact her at: Universidade Pedagógica Sagrada Família ‘UniSaF’, Maxixe, Inhambane Province, Mozambique