Cadecom’s inclusive education programme working wonders in Phalombe

Catholic Development Commission (Cadecom), one of the Catholic Church’s development arm in Malawi, initiated an education programme aimed at integrating children with disabilities into public schools rather than getting them into their special institutions.

Reverend Father Tamani emphasizes a point in inspiring the kids at Praise God Nursery School

Mamba (in jeans) appreciates it is done at nursery level

Called ‘Inclusive Education’, the initiative is working wonders in Phalombe District where it is being practised in 21 schools which have special teachers in sign language, others teaching vision impared kids and others with skills in teaching slow learners.

Also included in the programme is to encourage expectant mothers to seriously attend antenatal sessions where they are taught how kids sometimes are born with disabilities because there are certain procedures the mothers did not follow during pregnancy such as healthy dieting.

This project aims at preventing the development of and the early diagnosis of disabilities on the expectant mothers during antenatal sessions.

The programme is being executed in partnership with South Africa-based Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and its Education Programme Manager Velaphi Mamba paid a courtesy visit to Malawi and on Thursday, April 12, he was taken to Phalombe to sample for himself how the initiative is working.

Also involved in the programme are ministries of Education and Health as well as the Catholic University whose representatives, including Blantyre Diocese Vicar General — Reverend Father Boniface Tamani — were part of the delegation that visited three of such schools and Chiringa Health Centre maternity unit in the area of Senior Chiefs Nazombe and Chiwalo.

The delegation was taken through the antenatal sessions with the mothers as well as the teaching methods at Nazombe and Dindi primary schools and at Praise God Nursery School.

An interesting part is the Praise God Nursery School, which is administered by a nurse at Nambazo Health Centre, Judith Phameya, and it is offered for free at her home and she has over 200 eager kids.

She said she used to see kids just roaming about every morning as she went to work and that pained her a lot especially when she discovered that kids with disabilities were most affected, who were kept out of school by their parents.

“So, I mobilised the mothers and encouraged them that I will set up a school here at my home and that they should encourage their kids to come and learn,” she told the delegation.

“The parents’ response was overwhelmingly positive and we managed to have volunteer teachers as well. We approached Cadecom for assistance which we received in no time at all.”

At Dindi Primary School, the delegation were demonstrated how the community can utilise locally available food for their healthy nutrition as well as a theatre play that dwelr on the prevention of home delivery of babies and the encouragement of testing for sexually transmitted infections to prevent the development of disabilities.

Mamba said he was profoundly impressed with what Cadecom is doing in Phalombe and that there are other aspects he has learnt from this visit that Osisa shall copy and introduce in other southern African countries.

“I am also very happy with the commitment that this project is receiving from ministries of Health and Education, whose representatives were part of this visit as well as the willingness from the chiefs and people of the communities, who are making sure the Inclusive Education project works,” he said.

Diocesan Cadecom secretary Mandinda Zungu said during a certain project they were doing 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 also because there weren’t any schools that could cater for these kids’ needs. We decided to introduce the Inclusive Education project because the kids with disabilities need to actively interactive with the able bodied ones 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 the challenge now is to sustain the project and the fortunate part is that they are being supported by the two ministries of education and health.

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