Beyond school: Being part of one’s community in South Sudan
Sophia Mohammed, Toyin Janet Aderemi, and Sandrine Bohan-Jacquot
Inclusive education is about more than just what happens in school – it’s also about the support children and their families receive outside school, and their involvement in the life of their community. This article describes how Light for the World works with partners in South Sudan to promote community and school inclusion.
The approach of Light for the World and its partners
Light for the World1 aims to make mainstream services, across sectors, accessible to people with disabilities. Since 2005, it has been supporting local partners – Sudan Evangelical Mission (SEM)2 and ACROSS3 – to implement community-based rehabilitation (CBR) programmes in Southern Sudan, which became South Sudan in 2011.
Light for the World’s approach to development is built around the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD),4 and its programmes aim to effect change in the system/society in order to uphold the human rights and inclusion of all. For this reason, its inclusive education projects have a strong community focus and are rooted in CBR.
Community-based workers as agents of inclusion
Responding to barriers in the community ultimately affects the acceptance, participation and achievement of learners in school. SEM’s trained CBR workers visit homes to identify and assess children with disabilities. They provide home-based rehabilitation such as physiotherapy and training on daily living activities, and refer children to locally available health and education services.
CBR field workers also raise awareness among families and community members about disability and inclusion in society to reduce stigma and discrimination. They use the child-to-child approach to enable children with and without disabilities to come together through play activities. Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) and head teachers attend regular sessions on disability and the inclusive educational rights of children with disabilities.
Networking with other projects, services and local education authorities
SEM works with the local education authorities and schools to improve access to education for children with disabilities. Some teachers are trained on Braille, sign language and inclusion of learners with disabilities in the mainstream classrooms. In addition, as a result of SEM’s direct and indirect (through PTAs) engagement, local education authorities have appointed focal points on inclusive education and exempted learners with disabilities from paying school fees.
SEM has established a mutually beneficial relationship with the neighbouring primary healthcare facility in Lui that provides basic services to prevent or reduce the impact of impairments. The facility informs SEM about patients or new babies with impairments, who may need support.
There are also links with other SEM projects, such as eye care and livelihoods. CBR workers refer children for eye care services. SEM’s carpentry workshop produces assistive devices made from local materials. It ensures availability of such items whilst decreasing dependence/expenditure on imported devices and materials, and also provides jobs for people with and without disabilities in the community.
SEM currently supports 692 children with disabilities; 422 of them – including Lazarious – are in regular schools.5 Lazarious is blind and thought his only chance was to go to a school for the blind in Juba – a distant boarding facility. But since SEM trained his teacher in Braille and inclusive education, he now successfully studies in P7 in the neighbouring school, and happily lives with his family. Orientation and mobility training has enabled him to travel independently to school, to the market, to church and to gather grass as an additional source of income for his family.
SEM’s inclusive education success stories owe much to community inclusion, initiated at the household level. This lays the foundation for children with disabilities to participate fully later in school, and within every aspect of community life.
Towards inclusive education at the national level
Based on these good practices, Light for the World, in collaboration with Strømme Foundation and the Republic of South Sudan’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, supports inclusive education development. The initiative, funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, involves developing a national inclusive education policy and a more inclusive teacher education curriculum. This will give a robust legal framework to inclusive education. Additionally, it will enable all children in South Sudan to be taught by teachers who are adequately trained to respond to the educational needs of children with different learning abilities, including children in emergency situations.
Sophia Mohammed, Disability Mainstreaming Advisor (LFTW): firstname.lastname@example.org
Toyin Janet Aderemi, Programme Manager (LFTW): email@example.com
Sandrine Bohan-Jacquot, Inclusive Education Consultant: firstname.lastname@example.org
Light for the World the Netherlands
South Sudan Coordination Office
P.O. Box 613 Juba, South Sudan
Tel: +211 (0)177800178
5 Note: there are no special schools in South Sudan. There is a ‘School for the Blind’, under the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare, which is planned to become a resource centre.
Juma’s story (Names have been changed)
Juma is a 4-year-old boy who lives in Western Equatoria State. He was born with cerebral palsy. Since he was referred to SEM by the local hospital in 2012, Juma is visited by his CBR worker twice a week for physiotherapy. His mother was trained to give him daily physiotherapy which helps him to strengthen his limbs, swallow saliva and hold his head and chest. Juma also receives speech therapy. Such support will help him to be as independent as possible in the future.
The child-to-child approach had a tremendous impact on Juma’s life. Sophia, Juma’s first CBR worker, explained that “before the child-to-child activities, other children would not dare to come close or touch Juma”.
Juma and his devoted mother
© Sandrine Bohan-Jacquot
Sophia facilitates games such as cards and dominos which help motor and communication skills’ development, and which are also fun and help Juma develop friendships. Other children are now confident to play with Juma and enjoy spending time with him. The child-to-child approach is facilitating Juma’s inclusion in his community and raising awareness about disability among children and neighbours.
The team is already preparing Juma’s entry to pre-school next year. To support his inclusion, they will prepare a communication board to facilitate Juma’s communication, meet his future teacher to introduce Juma, and inform the teacher about Juma’s disability, abilities and preferences. The teacher will also be introduced to other teachers who are experienced in welcoming children with disabilities into their classrooms.