“A long time ago, Saniya went to school, but he could not learn well because he did not have teachers who were specifically trained to teach children with disabilities. It was for this reason he dropped out of school,” says Sim Tha about his son Sanyia who has an intellectual disability.
Saniya faced serious behavioural problems at school, in the community and at home. Although he wanted to, he could not help with household tasks. He was often in an angry or unreasonable mood. As he could not work out the difference between dirty and clean clothes, he always needed support from family members for his self-care.
In addition, Sanyia had problems socialising with others and allowing others to socialise with him.“He didn’t like playing and he could not make any friends. He would sit by himself and play alone,” says his father.“I felt embarrassed because I had a child with a disability. Some children did not want to play with him. He was discriminated by the community.”
Addressing the specific needs of children with disabilities
Sanyia was finally able to join an education programme implemented by Komar Pikar Foundation (KPF), a partner in the Cambodian Consortium for Out of School Children (CCOSC) led by Aide et Action (AEA) and co-funded by Educate A Child (EAC).“When I heard about the integrated class in Oriousie II primary school, I felt so excited! I decided to bring my son to the centre,” adds Saniya’s father.
Activities in the centre aim to maximise potential and progress in terms of physical, emotional, social and mental development of children with disabilities. Saniya was provided with a specialised services that included basic numeracy and literacy, social and life skills, physiotherapy and rehabilitation.The long term goal is to develop self-reliance and independence for Saniya so that he would not have any barriers and be able to participate in home and community life.
AEA Technical Adviser Kiran Dattani Pitt explains: “Children with disabilities form a significant proportion of the out-of-school population. This priority group is subjected to discrimination, segregation and exclusion from all social aspects of life. Schools such as Oriousie respect and value diversity. It helps to change discriminatory attitudes, in creating welcoming communities and in developing an inclusive society.”
A visible improvement
Sanyia started to communicate with other children and made some new friends. “My son enjoys coming to the centre because he likes playing with his friends from the Centre and normal class,” says Sanyia’s father.
“It is very important for children with and without disabilities to learn together,” adds Kiran Dattani Pitt. “This interaction builds self-reliance and confidence. These are two important aspects with one’s ability to live a normal life, despite of any differences.”
Sanyia learnt to help cleaning the bathroom and tidying the classroom. “I can see my son has improved a lot. He can wash himself and he can do his own laundry,” says his father proudly. “He helps to prepare lunch and tidy up the house. He is even able to take cows to pasture and get water!” Now, Sanyia can also write some letters and numbers in Khmer and he can express himself through painting.
KPF plans advocacy activities to encourage access and inclusion of children with disabilities in public schools. “Mainstream learning environments can include children who may have particular learning needs,” concludes Kiran Dattani Pitt. “Creating a learning environment which responds to the needs of each child, including those with disabilities, are not only fundamental to including the most marginalised, they will actually benefit all children.”