Inclusive education in refugee settlements, for kids like Betty

Betty is a 13-year-old girl living in Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement, Uganda.  Betty cannot walk, because she was borne with two crippled legs. Because she did not have a wheelchair, she faced difficulties going to school on her own. Her mother would cut a jerrycan in two and tie a rope at the handle. Then Betty would sit in the jerrycan and her mother would pull her to school. Imagine the joy of Betty and her mother when Betty received a wheelchair! 

“Betty does not talk but she can hear. She was borne lame and has two crippled legs” says Betty’s mother. “Betty had a wheelchair that was very old and difficult to roll, and because of that we decided to abandon the wheelchair and just use a local method to transport her to school, church or anywhere my family would wish to go with her. We cut a 20 liter jerrycan and tied a rope just at the handle. She then would sit inside the jerrycan and someone would pull her using the rope tied on the jerrycan. It had become so heavy to take her to school or church”.

Inclusive education

Through ZOA’s HOPE project – funded by Education Cannot Wait – ZOA was able to support refugee and host community children with disabilities with assistive devices and inclusive education opportunities. “When ZOA came to register children with impairments in schools, Betty was found in school and later was assessed by a doctor. I was so excited at the news when we were called to school to attend this assessment. From the way things were done that day, my heart was filled with hope for my daughter. I had no doubt she was going to be supported.”

Schools closed

But then, in March 2020, all schools in Uganda closed to minimize the spread of the corona virus (COVID-19). Across the country, more than 15 million learners were out of school, including 600,000 refugee learners. This was a serious setback, also for Betty and her mother. Betty’s mother worried when the schools had to close: “My heart was shaken because I thought whatever was done, would not be done anymore. But it was like a dream when at one day one of the teachers from Betty’s school came to my home and told me that Betty would still receive a wheelchair.

“Our slogan ‘’We are here’’ speaks volume in this case. Supporting this child with a wheelchair broke barriers for her to access education. Now she will be able to reach school easily and happily just like any other child!”

— Caroline Joyce Labong – ZOA’s project manager

Betty came with a big smile when she saw the new wheelchair that was brought for her. The heart of her mother was filled with joy: ”I said, Betty’s life will change again!”

Home based learning

When the first corona-virus cases were reported in Uganda, many organizations, including ZOA, had to adapt their way of working to ensure protection and safety for refugee and host communities as well as aid workers. To prevent learning losses and drop-outs, ZOA set up a rapid ‘Education in Emergencies’ response to ensure children in Uganda’s refugee settlements can continue learning. ZOA supports learners like Betty with radio, home-learning packages and small group learning – an initiative to support safe, distance, home-based learning in small community-groups. At the moment of writing, schools in Uganda have partly resumed.

Acknowledgement

This project is implemented with funding from Education Cannot Wait and through the Uganda Education Consortium. Education Cannot Wait is the first global fund dedicated to education in emergencies and protracted crises to ensure that every crisis-affected child and young person is in school and learning. The Uganda Education Consortium is a coalition made up of non-governmental organisations and UN agencies to support the implementation of the Education Response Plan through a harmonised and collaborative approach. The Education Consortium Management Unit is hosted by Save the Children.

Click here to read more about ZOA’s programme in Uganda.