CADECOM inculcating disaster risk reduction in primary school learners in disaster prone areas

Inclusive education, which Catholic Development Commission of Malawi (CADECOM), initiated in Traditional Authority Chuma as an academic programme aimed at integrating children with disabilities into public schools, also teaches young learners on how to respond to natural disaster emergency.

Signpost that entices parents to send kids with disabilities to school

According to T/A Chuma and his fellow senior chiefs in Mulanje West constituency, most parts of this area are prone to very strong winds, especially this time of the season as well as during heavy rains, which at times rips off people’s houses’ roofs.

In conjunction with Plan International Malawi, CADECOM decided to involve young learners on how to reduce the risk of disaster by among other things, plating more trees to act as strong windbreaks.

The learners are taught on how to take care of tree nurseries and once they are ready for planting they are encouraged to take home as well after been taught how to inspire their parents on the need of having a good tree cover around their homes.

This area is very flat and mostly bare of tress but now most of the households and the schools now have well covered woodlots which are well tended by the learners themselves as well as the school committee members, who provide them with water for irrigation during the dry season.

The learners are also taught safe and stronger ways of building houses to withstand the strong winds and are advised to supervise their parents and builders when they are erecting houses.

CADECOM is implementing the system jointly with Plan International Malawi, Mulanje Forestry Department, Montfort Mary View special needs college, Mulanje District Council and the traditional leaders.

And on Monday, CADECOM, Plan International Malawi and its other stakeholders visited Namphungo and Chisawani primary schools for a joint monitoring and evaluation exercise with headteachers, school committees and the traditional leaders.

At Namphungo Primary School, headteacher Sebastian Phiri said the learners are also taught how to respond to an alarm system they initiated that once it is set off the kids run for safety and regroup at an emergency assembly point.

And the able-bodied learners are also taught to carry with them their physically challenged classmates.

Rather than getting the physically challenged into their own special institutions, the inclusive education encourages the communities to send their kids for the integrated system which is taking deep root and has seen positive high of enrollment.

Also being provided is a Chisawani School resource centre with disability friendly access, a teacher development centre (TDC) and an early childhood reading programme.

The physically challenged are also provided with wheelchairs, special toilets and also take part in the disaster risk reduction clubs.

Plan International Malawi Mulanje office’s project officer, Dan Kapatuka applauded all for wonderful execution of the initiative whileCADECOM’s Director of Social Development in Blantyre Archdiocese, Gracian Tukula said it was such a wonderful feeling that the community is inculcating a culture of ownership of development projects among the youths.

“It is not easy for kids to advise their parents on what to do to reduce disaster risk but from what we have seen in the confidence that these learners have been imparted with, they will grow up into responsible citizens,” he said.

CADECOM first initiated the inclusive education in Phalombe District, which has a high rate of children with disabilities who were being discriminated against in terms of being enrolled in schools.

So far the primary schools undergo special training in sign language for speech impaired learners, others teaching vision impaired kids and others imparted with skills in teaching slow learners.

Inclusive education involves changes and modifications in content, approach, structure, teaching strategies, modified curriculum as well as school culture and attitudes and is based on the notion that schools should without question, provide for the needs of all the children, whatever the levels of their abilities and disabilities by providing support that enhance participation and achievement.

The programme is also being executed in partnership with South Africa-based Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).

In her remarks, CADECOM’s Diocesan Secretary Mandinda Zungu said during a certain project they were implementing in Phalombe between 2011 and 2016, they noticed that parents lock away their kids with disabilities when they go out, which to them they deemed as segregation simply because of their state of being.

And since the schools there weren’t catering for these kids’ needs they decided to introduce the inclusive education project to counter the problem with emphasis that they should actively interactive with the able bodied classmates in order for them to learn quickly.

“We went around the district to sensitise the parents that no child with disability should be denied his or her right to education.  We are very proud that the parents responded to our call when we set up disability friendly facilities at various schools,” she said.

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