Using experiences from Ndinogona Inclusive Early Childhood Development Stimulation Program and Promoting Inclusion in ECDE within CBR programs project, the conference discussed modalities of ensuring children with disability have access to quality education. Representatives of UHAMBO, an organization working in Southern Africa to promote inclusion of children with disabilities ignited a debate on the need to change mind-set in order to achieve inclusive education.
UHAMBO, for instance, had surveyed 21000 households; provided 70,000 assistive devices; trained therapists and caregivers in all the 9 South Africa provinces as well as in Namibia and Botswana. UHAMBO also played an important role in advocacy and policy development on disability rights and green paper on inclusive education in South Africa; participated in the development of the World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines; pioneered the design and provision of a manual on wheelchairs in less resourced communities.
Participants thus noted that inclusion was not simple or linear. It required a holistic approach; understanding that children with disability have potential, empowering and capacitating parents; and engaging communities so that they have clear understanding of rights. Capacity building was not just about provision of skills but tools – hence the need for creating a mind shift to change the expectations and acknowledging that every child has potential.
Ms Patience Kanguma of the Zambian Federation of Disability Organisation (ZAFOD), like UHAMBO observed that inclusive education required everyone’s participation. In this respect, the Promoting Inclusion in ECDE with CBR programs project in Zambia, Angola, Lesotho and Mozambique, used multi-disciplinary teams (teachers, Nurses, Social welfare officer) to identify children with disability before they could be enrolled in school. And that early identification and interventions within CBR programs promoted child development and socialization. Involvement of parents of children with disabilities, as well as DPOs, was further noted as key to the success of ECDE.
However, there was need for intensified awareness among community members, traditional leaders, and other stakeholders regarding early identification of children with disabilities. There was also need to engage government and donor community on CBR and inclusive education.