“Though I don’t have a stable business, I do piece work of installing electrical appliances in other people’s houses. I also sell fried fish within the community, unlike in the past, I am able to take stock of what I have sold in a day,” he said.
At 27 years old, Patrick Daison had difficulties to make ends meet because he had no formal education, he was just doing things for the day, as they come.
Though hardworking and disciplined, according to his peers, Daison still lacked based knowledge to fulfill his dreams.
“I have been doing piece work, sometimes been trying my luck in small scale businesses but to no avail.
“I lost hope that someday, things will take off to a promising future for me,” Daison, who comes from Bangwe, in Blantyre.
His life he said, changed when Forum for Youth with Disabilities (FDYD) enrolled him in their Inclusive Integrated Adult Education (IIAE) programme which aims at transforming lives through acquisition of literacy, numeracy and tailoring skills.
“I am epileptic, that’s why my parents chose to keep me home that send me to school. This affected my future, I was hopeless but I couldn’t do anything, I have to live with it,” he said.
Upon registration, Daison scored level 0 in literacy and 1 in numeracy in the initial lamp scale, but due to his hardwork, he is currently on level 3 in literacy and numeracy level 4 at Namiyango Community Learning Centre (CLC) which is run by FDYD.
“Now I am able to read and write and to help my younger siblings with homework and other school related works. The program has given me a sense of belonging and I am treated as a capable, productive member of the family.
According to Plan Malawi International, children with disabilities are 10 times less likely to attend school than those without. Even if they attend school, they are more likely to drop out early while the level of schooling they receive is frequently below that of their peers.
The organization further notes that children with disabilities are often unable to go to school because of unsuitable school buildings.
In addition, there is a limited understanding within their communities and among teachers about their learning needs, which is often fuelled by prejudices around disability.
IIAE is a pilot project which is being implemented by FDYD in partnership with DVV International with financial support from German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
FDYD Executive Director, Rex Kalima, said the programme is transforming many young people and he is sure that they will become reliable citizens using the acquired skills.
“The programme aims to ensure that everyone is able to read and write and has access to inclusive education that is beneficial to their everyday lives. As for Patrick, just like many other learners, is a very hardworking participant he is very much dedicated to the sessions and rarely absents from coming to the center, although he is epileptic and some time he has seizures during classes on some days, he has not allowed that to demotivate him.
“He is one of the brightest participants in their class and although he has some behavioral issues that need to be addressed but regardless he is a very dedicated in both literacy and numeracy and also in tailoring,” he said.
He added that inclusive education enables all children and young people to learn together in the same environment without discrimination rather than in segregated schools.
“It promotes human rights and is a developmental approach that supports the view that all children and young people belong together irrespective of their individual differences based on race, gender, disability, social status, religious beliefs or otherwise.
“This is in line with the 1994 UNESCO’s Salamanca Statement that emphasizes that all children and young people have a right to attend schools in their local neighborhoods,” he said.
The same is stipulated in the 2007 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), 2013 Malawi Education Act, 2012 Disability Act and the 2013 Gender Equality Act among others.
The FDYD’s work is in line with the National Strategy on Inclusive Education 2017-2021 which strives to achieve an education system that promotes access, participation and achievement of diverse learners at all levels by 2022.
However, despite the success registered so far, Kalima said the program has faced some setbacks.
He cited Covid-19 as the main culprit as 25 learners have dropped out, out of 52 because their parents migrated to other places when they lost jobs due to massive retrenchments that companies implemented due to the pandemic.
DVV International Regional Director for Southern Africa, David Harrington said the programme is helping learners to participate in development.
“The programme focuses on boosting the literacy skills of the semiliterate and the illiterate. Through the programme the participants also learn various issues pertaining to their everyday life. The IAE programme aims at ensuring that the participants meaningfully participate in the development of their areas,” said Harrington.
The concept of ‘Inclusive Education’ is relatively new all over the world including Malawi. For a long time, Malawi has been associating Inclusive Education with learners with Special Educational Needs and disabilities.
The project started in 2019 with awareness raising campaigns in neighbouring communities that surround the cleaning center the project started in October 2020.
The program has three facilitators that teach three classes, participants were allocated to the classes based on their performance on the initial Lamp-scale that was conducted on the selected participants for the program.
In 2017, Malawi launched the National Inclusive Education Strategy which translated the inclusive education policy statement of the National Education policy (2016) into a plan of action to achieve increased access to equitable and relevant quality education for all learners and recognizing the importance of promoting inclusive education in the education sector.
The strategy recognized that the introduction of Free Primary Education (FPE) Policy in 1994 that led to the tripling of primary enrollment has consequently brought about many of the challenges the sector is currently experiencing to achieve inclusive education.
“These include: unstimulating classroom environment, large class sizes, inadequate qualified teachers, shortage of teaching, learning and assessment resources, increased absenteeism and dropout rate.
“In addition, many more children face exclusion within the education system, learning in segregated institutions, discriminated against in their school environment, or taught by teachers who are unable or, in some cases, unwilling to meet their different learning needs,”
In these cases education systems prevent deprived children from accessing their human rights to education,” reads part of the strategy.
Despite significant progress made in mitigating these challenges, the strategy said the country still faces a decline in internal efficiency of the education system and children’s learning outcomes.
This has also negatively affected deprived children including girls, children with disabilities, children from ultra-poor households, street children and those with other learning difficulties, both in rural and urban areas.
The goal of the strategy was to ensure that learners with diverse needs in Malawi have equitable access to quality education in inclusive settings at all levels through the removal of barriers to learning, participation, attendance and achievement.
During the 2018 UK Global Disability Summit (GDS18), the Malawi Government committed to improve early identification assessment and interventions for children with disabilities by 2021; to undertake capacity building of teachers on how to manage learners with disabilities at all levels by 2022; and to train caregivers in inclusive early childhood development by 2022.