By Ruth Kiruta
Teaching children in Uganda does not necessarily mean one should master thealphabet. Some children with mental disabilities in Uganda do not have the ability to reach the same level of education as others, but can acquire education through other means. Disability cases in Uganda are so many but children with disabilities are often neglected and left at home rather than attending school. People with physical handicaps can often attend any kind of school, but children with cases of mental disabilities are commonly denied access to education.
The Dutch model is one of a kind that is used at Angels Center for Children in Kampala to help children with mental disabilities learn life skills.
Since it opened in [YEAR], the Angels Center has educated Ugandan children with mental disabilities using a model that originated in the Netherlands where the teachers do not focus on teaching writing but more focus on nurturing social upbringing. The teachers help the children master abilities such as sharing, playing with one another, greeting, bathing, and washing simple things like hankies. This model is designed to help them fit into society and stand on their own at a certain point in life.
The school aims to provide appropriate and tailored education services for Ugandan children with mental disabilities, who face societal discrimination and attend school at very low rates. Only about 9% of children with disabilities at school-going age attend primary school, compared with a national average of 92%, and only 6% of them continue studying in secondary schools, compared to the national average of 25 %.
Children with disabilities in Uganda face barriers to school
The United Nations Standards Rules on Equalization of Opportunities for People Living with Disabilities (1991) argues that all nations should show strong commitment on equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities. The National Policy on Disability in Uganda also aims at promoting equal opportunities for enhanced empowerment, participation and protection of rights of People living with disabilities, irrespective of gender, sex , economic or cultural background.
Disability is defined as permanent and substantial functional limitation of daily life activities caused by physical, mental or sensory impairment and environmental barriers.
According to the Uganda Population and Housing Census Report of 2002, four out of twenty five persons in Uganda are Persons with Disabilities. The prevalence of disability increased with age, from 2 percent among children aged less than 18 years to as high as 18 percent among adults.
People living with disability have inadequate access to services, information and resources as well as limited participation in the social economic development process. Consequently, the majority depend on their families for survival.
The government’s Universal Primary Education policy encompasses even these people living with disabilities. For instance, Kyambogo University is a good example in providing education services for people living with disabilities through a special college for students living with disabilities.
But according to the UNESCO Report, Uganda has extremely low enrolment and completion of primary and secondary schools by children with disabilities.
Children with disabilities are mainly kept at home, due to a lack of opportunities to go elsewhere, a lack of means to give them proper support, and a lack of acceptance in society. In Uganda, there is still stigma about having a child with a handicap.
In 2009 and 2010, the highest percentage of the pupils with disabilities in primary school had hearing disabilities. Other children with disabilities include pupils with visual disabilities, pupils with mental health conditions, pupils with physical disabilities, pupils with autism and then pupils with multiple disabilities.
Overall, children with sensory disabilities, visually and hearing-impaired children, had the highest chance to access schools and complete primary level, whereas children with mental and cognitive disabilities such as autism and children with multiple disabilities were less likely to attend school.
Inspiration for a center where children with mental disabilities can learn
Rose Mary Nambooze, the director of Angels Center for Children, gave birth to a baby boy named Abyril who had a heart dysfunction and Down’s syndrome.
Nambooze struggled to raise the son until he eventually gained an operation in America. She realized many more parents face similar situations but lack support. This motivated her to establish a center to help bring up such children with mental disabilities.
The more Rosemary was experiencing the contrast between the care for her child in Antwerp and the harsh reality for disabled children in Uganda, the more she became convinced that the future work she wanted to do was to strengthen the rights and capacities of parents of disabled children, and the disabled children themselves.
Since it opened, Nambooze’s center has educated children with mental disabilities using a Dutch model where the teachers do not focus on teaching writing but more focus on nurturing social upbringing. The teachers help the children master abilities such as sharing, playing with one another, greeting, bathing, and washing simple things like hankies. This model is designed to help them fit into society and stand on their own at a certain point in life.
VIDEO OF PATIENCE ARINAITWE SPEAKING ON MODEL.
Since some of the children, particularly those with cerebral palsy and autism, do not stand or walk, they receive physical therapy as part of their holistic education package.. Due to such exercises, with time, they experience change. However, this requires patience for both the therapists and the parents if they are to have good results.
VIDEO OF AMBROSE GIVING PHISICAL THERAPY.
Playing games is also a focus of the school. This is because some games help the children learn how to network, think critically, and look at and make sense of life around them. Observing students’ moods after the games also help the teachers to better understand the students and their needs, especially if certain students are not comfortable with certain games.