This article has been published in Enabling Education Review 7
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Notes on the drawing: Unhappy experience. Not studying. Not promoted.
Notes on the drawing: Unhappy experience. Not studying. Not promoted.

Map of Indonesia


Capital: Jakarta
Official languages: Indonesian
Population: 261,115,456
Out-of-school children: 2,645,000
Pre-primary enrolment: 31%


How it feels to repeat grades

Hello friends, my name is Isma. I am going to tell you a story about myself. I go to Bangunrejo Primary School. The school is located in a small village in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. This year I will be promoted to Year 6. I will be 14 years old this July. I should be in junior high school this year.

I live with my grandfather in a small house, because my parents both work outside the town. They take my two little sisters with them. Every day my grandad drops me off and picks me up from school on his motorcycle. My grandad works as a pedicab driver. Every day he tells me to study diligently. I always listen to him to study diligently so I can be promoted to a higher year level.

Being retained [held back a grade] was not nice, and it made me really sad. I had been retained for three times in my previous school. My teacher told me that was because I did not study hard enough, reading, counting. I cried that day. While my friends went to Year 2, I stayed in Year 1. They learnt new things, I was told to repeat the lessons in Year 1. And I had to be separated with my friends. I was very sad. But my grandad said it’s ok, what was most important was that I had to study hard and listen to the teacher. I did all that. But it happened again. I was retained again in Year 2, and my classmates went to Year 3. So I kept studying. My teacher told me that I needed to move school. I was sad and wondered why I had to move school? Was it because I was not getting good grades as my classmates? Was it because I did not have as nice handwriting as my friend who sat next to me? Or was it because I couldn’t do Math well? Eventually, my grandad and I went looking for a new school.

That morning I went to Bangunrejo PS, an inclusive school where I am studying now. I met teachers who were very kind. They smiled at me. I was asked to write my name down, drew a picture, read a story and answered not difficult questions. I liked the school. When we went home, I told my grandad that I wanted to go to that school. He told me to pray that they would accept me. The news came out – I was accepted. I was very happy. I met new classmates and new teachers.

I promised to myself that I will study hard so I will not be retained. And I promised to be good so I can have friends. I will be in Year 6. In this school, I have always been promoted even though I don’t get a good rank. I am still very happy. My grandad is also happy. Although my classmates often mock me because I am not as smart as they are, I will always be in good spirits to study because I want to be promoted and finish school.

Isti Karisma Muslimah, age 14, Indonesia


I am happy when I am reading my book in a quiet room. I am unhappy when the teacher beats me in class. Drawing by Christine, primary school student, Uganda (EENET photo library)
I am happy when I am reading my book in a quiet room.
I am unhappy when the teacher beats me in class.
Drawing by Christine, primary school student, Uganda (EENET photo library)


I am happy when it is English class. I am unhappy when I fall over walking on the rough path to the latrines. Drawing by Janet, primary school student, Uganda (EENET photo library)
I am happy when it is English class.
I am unhappy when I fall over walking on the rough path to the latrines.
Drawing by Janet, primary school student, Uganda (EENET photo library)

Poverty affects our inclusion in education

Sometimes it could be very hard for me to learn because of lack of money and enough properties [learning materials] that were required in the school. Sometimes I was being sent at home and when I reached home my mother was telling me that she doesn’t have money. So that made me not to improve my education. Sometimes I could see people with all textbooks and storybooks but they did not know the importance of the textbooks. I could still defeat those people who had storybooks.
Vivian Atieno, Kenya

In my area most children lack school fees, school uniform and school instruments that make them to be send home everyday. This could make a child fail because he or she does not attend the class lesson. This can make a child to lose hope in life and become a street child.
Brevil Onditi, Kenya

Most of the children in my society are being sent out of school to bring school fees and yet their parents do not have. You may found that a child has not gone for school around four weeks just because he or she lacks school fees. Education can also be improved by providing books in our school and also building for us classes. Most of the pupils lack textbooks just because their parents do not have money. When a pupil has not done homework, the teacher will punish him or her not knowing that a pupil has no textbook.
Alice Apiyo, age 12, Kenya


My experience of school as a deafblind girl in Zambia

My name is Luyando Maria Dimuna. I am 9 years old. I am a Zambian deafblind girl and proud to be who I am. I have 2 sisters and one brother. I stay with my mum.

What makes me feel happy, safe and welcome in school are my deaf friends and my mother because she is a teacher at my school. My mother is my favourite adult at school because she takes care of me and we move together from home to school. My mother is a very special person and I love her so much.

The thing I did at school that made me proud was when I participated in hockey with help from my deaf friends. I feel left out when my friends are running and jumping. My hopes and dreams for the future are swimming. I hope to compete with the non-disabled children. Sports are important, and art also is important because it improves our lives and it is also part of an exercise.

My school is not inclusive because there are only deaf children and no hearing children. There are issues related to food at school because sometimes we don’t eat. Water is a problem because sometimes it does not come out from the tap. Toilets are sometimes very dirty and for me as a deafblind person it’s really hard.

Getting to and from school for me is a challenge because home is far away from school. I have no one who is helping me, but teachers are helped by the government. What is difficult about going to school is lack of transport. This makes me attend school only 3 times in a week and I really feel left out. My mother cannot afford transport for the whole week because it is expensive. It’s difficult because my mother is a single mum who needs to look after me and my siblings.

I am not learning when I am outside school because I have no teacher to come and teach me. Every teacher wants money to come and teach me, which my mother cannot afford. What makes me really annoyed is missing school for some days, and the few numbers of teachers to teach deafblind people and children.

What is fun about going to school is meeting my friends and discovering new things.

We do not have a school council. Sometimes we are consulted by media about what happens in school. The thing that made me laugh was when kids were playing with a ball and it hit me accidentally on my back and I got pushed.

For me inclusive education means learning, playing, together with children who are disabled and non-disabled. Yes, my mother has done that on my behalf. She has been talking to parents who have children with disabilities to take them to school.

My mother talks about inclusive education on my behalf because she is in support of it and one day wants me to be in inclusive education so that my non-disabled friends can accept my disability and play with me freely and that will reduce stigmatisation.

My mother is my hero because she has always been there for me from the time I was born to date and she has been training me in tactile signing and activities for daily living. That’s all about me.

Luyando’s mother says “I helped my daughter to write this article, but the ideas and opinions are hers.”

Luyando Maria Dimuna, age 9, Zambia

Map of Zambia


Capital: Lusaka
Official languages: English
Population: 16,591,390
Out-of-school children: 325,000
Pre-primary enrolment: no data available

Other people help me enjoy school

I am Suna Juma, a Form IV student in Mwanakwerekwe Secondary School in Zanzibar. I am a 17-year-old girl. I feel happy, safe and appreciated in my school. School is a place where I can feel happy and safe from a variety of situations that can put me at risk.

Even when I’m having problems with academic issues, I find huge support and have the opportunity to give different ideas about my education. When I need the library for borrowing books or reading, I can do so without any disturbance. And I find joy in this.

During school time I am very close to my classmates and teachers who can comfort me when I have a problem. I feel comfortable and confident at school. I have self-motivation and I make myself honest. I work hard in my studies and make a great deal of effort in pursuit of education. I hope to have a good career after school. As a respectful child, I can keep my dignity and that makes me more positive and respectful for my teachers.

When I interact with all my schoolmates, including those with various problems such as the deaf students who are also at my school, I feel very happy as we learn together regardless of our differences. It is a pleasure to experience a great deal of life experiences with many people. I feel happy because every human being has the right to an education. The deaf students offer contributions and different arguments during our lessons that show everyone’s ability to learn.

Lastly, I would like to give my advice to other girls to behave well as I do at school. If we behave like this, we can contribute to building our own nation.

Suna Juma, age 17, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Editor’s thoughts

I feel bad for Isma (page 47) because I know what it feels like, although in my case I was not kept back. I have moved school a few times because we have lived in three different countries. In one school they did not put a lot of emphasis on spelling and handwriting, because they focused on other things. When I moved into a new school, in third grade, I was behind the other students in my class as they had been focusing on it for a while. Because of this, I was not treated as an equal by my fellow students and it was not a good feeling being different.

This student’s difficulties in class also remind me of moving into my first year of middle school. In Grade 4 our teacher spent a year using project-based learning as an experiment in the school – we were the only class who did it. This year was fun, relaxed and interesting as we worked as groups to find out about new things and do research and assignments. There were a lot of projects and group learning and the homework set was part of these projects.

But when I moved into 5th grade everything was different. We were set homework for every subject separately with deadlines that all came together. This was a struggle. I had to suddenly learn how to manage my time. This was hard and meant that I often had to stay up late if I was going to finish it all in time. I thought I was the only one in the class having problems because of this but I am pretty sure that others were having the same problems. If I had been told that I would have to stay back a year to catch up because I was not managing to do everything I needed to, I would have felt as though I had failed myself and this would have been more stressful on me.

Jakob Corcoran-Oien, age 12, USA