USAID Small Grants and Ambassador’s Fund Program has promoted inclusive education, where disabled children can study side by side with the normal children.
Ajwa Atif was born with Down Syndrome ten years ago. She has three more sisters who are normal. Ajwa was initially sent to the same school as of her sisters. With slanted eyes, abnormal teeth, and moderate intellectual disability, Ajwa keep on attending school but could not learn anything there because the teachers and students were not taking into account her special needs.
With an intention to transform the lives of children with disabilities by providing them with appropriate education, USAID, through Ambassador’s Fund Program, has funded Rising Sun Educational and Welfare Society for undertaking the project “Inclusive Education Teacher’s Training Program for regular School Teachers”. USAID provided over US $ 86,000 for training of 750 teachers belonging to rural and urban schools of Southern Punjab, thereby enabling the schools to enroll 7,500 disabled children in a year. Out of these around 300 teachers were from Lahore District while 450 teachers hailed from 24 other districts of Punjab.
The Rising Sun Educational and Welfare Society selected teachers from schools run by Ghazali Education Trust, Dar-e-Arqam Foundation, Allied School System and Child Care Foundation and imparted 5-day training on multiple aspects of inclusive education. After receiving training, the schools initiated enrolling students with special needs enthusiastically.
When Ajwa’s parents came to know about the regular schools who offer teacher trained in inclusive education, they immediately switch Ajwa’s school and enrolled her in a of Dar-e-Arqam School.
Ms. Faiza Mir, headmistress of Dar-e-Arqam School, Airport road branch, Lahore attended training workshop in January 2012. “I have been teaching for more than a decade now. I always thought that each child, irrespective of its disability, should be enrolled in school. But we were never able to handle children with disabilities in school environment because we didn’t know how to handle them. After receiving USAID funded training, now I can address the needs of children disabilities and can skillfully tailor lessons according to the the need of children”, explained Ms. Faiza Mir.
Now it has been over two years, since Ajwa Arif is being taught by teachers who stand trained in inclusive education. The headmistress of Ajwa’s school, Ms. Faiza Mir has noted some positive improvements in Ajwa’s general behavior and demeanor. She has stopped drooling and has started to write properly. Ajwa is currently studying in class 1 and comes to school eagerly.