People living with disabilities face huge struggles in accessing education in the countries where we work. Inadequate funding means that government schools lack: ramps for wheelchairs, transport services for those who struggle with mobility, and ‘disability-friendly’ learning resources and study spaces. There are also very few teachers who have had adequate training in how to incorporate children living with disabilities into classroom learning. Many people underestimate the capabilities of those living with disabilities and therefore don’t invest in educating children with disabilities.
The ongoing exclusion from education has meant that many adults living with disabilities remain uneducated and illiterate. This leaves many of them unable to support themselves, contribute to their households or fully participate in their communities. Many have to resort to begging, which only serves to reinforce the stigma already attached to people living with disabilities in Somalia.
AET offers a comprehensive approach to improving access to education for people living with disabilities. We work with government schools to help identify children who may need more assistance in the classroom and help teachers think about how they can best cater for children with disabilities. This involves improving physical access to schools, creating extra tutorials for children struggling in the classroom, and producing ‘disability-friendly’ learning materials that can be easily disseminated. For children with disabilities who are unable to attend mainstream schools, such as those who are deaf or blind, AET supplies vouchers to enable them to attend local specialist schools. We also offer out-of-school classes for young people and adults living with disabilities who have never had the chance to go to school. These classes focus largely on basic literacy, numeracy and life skills and are combined with specialist vocational training courses in areas of the beneficiaries’ choosing, with a view to establishing them in trade or employment over the longer term.
Addressing stigma and creating long-term change means helping people living with disabilities to be heard and respected in their community. AET is part of an emerging movement which helps people living with disabilities to advocate for their right to be recognised as equal and valuable members of the community. AET works towards fostering relationships between local organisations and regional governments where both sides can work collaboratively to improve the accessibility of services and address social obstacles to inclusion.
This programme has mainly benefited people living with disabilities in Somaliland, Puntland, and Central and South Somalia. This initiative has reached almost 3000 people living with disabilities across the region; however we aim to target all the one million people living with disabilities in Somalia through a wide range of formal and non-formal education opportunities.
Amal, is one of the recent beneficiaries of our programme. She is one of two blind children out of a family of six. Her parents though poor, were able to send both her and her brother to a primary school for the blind but there was no money for further education. AET’s disability project has provided Amal with a chance to attend a six month course in blind computer skills. Already she is actively involved in local NGO activities to promote the rights of disabled people to education and training, but she would also like to be an example of what a young disabled person can achieve in employment if given the chance.
Disability is not inability, but rather a unique set of challenges learners face. With the right support these challenges can be overcome.