Thursday June 27, 2007
If you’ve been reading this blog regularly, you know that the situation for most children with any kinds of special needs or difference in Ethiopia is bleak. My understanding of what a big issue this is has been developing throughout the year I’ve been here. As Cluster Coordinator, I’ve brought the issue of inclusion up in workshops throughout the year; next year, it will be a workshop topic on its own. But the trouble is that by the time the Cluster programme gets involved, it’s very late: we’re working with teachers who are working with children 7 and up. As there is no public kindergarten in Tigray region, most children don’t get any early years education. Most children with serious special needs don’t even attend grade one, let alone kindergarten. Children with milder problems might go to school, but, get very little support, and often don’t make it very far. Intervention in the early years can have a big impact in terms of minimizing disability, but for most children in Adwa (or in Ethiopia, or Africa) this intervention doesn’t exist. Most children are hidden at home. Muscles, and brains, atrophy from neglect, and so much potential is lost.
My colleagues and I have been mulling this problem over for a few months, and after a while the impossible didn’t seem so impossible anymore. We have decided to start an Inclusive Kindergarten at the college.
We have gotten permission to repair and renovate two abandoned buildings as classrooms. We have developed a proposal and have the support of the town administration and the college. We have the children, and we’re pretty sure we’ve got our first teacher. What we need now is the money to make this happen. Our first priority is the renovation of the old buildings and the construction of an outdoor play area from local materials, which is estimated to cost approximately 70 000 birr (or Canadian $8274).
So now I’m embarking on a fundraising journey, and I’m asking for your help. If you would like to support our project, give a child a chance to have an education that can make the difference between hope and despair, and create a model of inclusive education in Ethiopia, please email me (email is the best option, but you can also post a comment on this blog) about how to make a donation to Adwa’s Inclusive Kindergarten. If you would like more information, would like to read our full proposal, would like information on some of the children with special needs who will attend the Kindergarten, or would like to help plan a fundraising event, also please email me.
As you’ve probably figured out by now, the difficult stay-or-go decision has long been made. I can’t remember if I reported it already, which is a bit anti-climactic as it was a very anxiety-filled decision at the time, but most days I’m pretty sure it was the right one. I am staying for a second year or so – the cluster programme has a jam-packed plan for 2007-08, and there’s a lot to do to support the Inclusive Kindergarten as well. But, right now, the summer holidays are upon us – a week of exams (even for grade ones!) has just ended, passes and fails are being sorted out, and school is wrapping up. I will be spending the first two weeks of July in Awassa, attending VSO’s intensive language training (in Amharic, as the volunteers in Tigray are a pretty sparse group). From there, I will go to a refugee camp in southwestern Ethiopia, near the Sudan border, for four weeks in July and August – myself and another VSO volunteer are doing a sort of mini-secondment training teachers for the school there. Likely, there will be some interesting blogs about that experience. Then, I’ll be back in Adwa for the rest of the summer, sorting out the Inclusive Kindergarten, and maybe doing some summer programmes for children. And of course, I’ll be celebrating the Ethiopian millennium on September 11 (Meskerem 1, Ethiopian calendar).