Despite the adoption of the Global Campaign for Education for All and the advancement of rights for people living with disabilities through various national legislations, deafblind children in Tanzania continue to be systematically excluded from education. This can be because their disability is too severe for them to attend mainstream schools or because there are not enough special schools to cater for all deafblind children in the country. As a result, the education of deafblind children is left to their families. With support from HDIF, Sense International is running a four-year pilot to demonstrate that children with the most complex disabilities can be educated in mainstream classrooms in a way that is both life-changing and cost-effective.
During the pilot, children with deafblindness and multi-sensory impairment (MSI) were supported to learn alongside children without disabilities with the
help of ‘teaching assistants’ who could respond to their specific educational needs.
The pilot was implemented by:
Developing the capacity of 100 schools: This included the training and sensitization of teachers and head teachers, and the recruitment and training of teaching assistants. Within these schools, teaching assistants provided classroom support to children with deafblindness in accordance with the specialist deafblind curriculum and their individual education plans.
Supporting the inclusion of children with deafblindness in schools: Special needs education (SNE) teachers were deployed at district level to provide training and support to teachers, parents, and teaching assistants, as well as functional assessments, education goal setting, and progress monitoring for children. They are also responsible for coordinating any medical assessments
and medical interventions required by the children.
Developing recommendations for government: Sense carried out research and advocacy activities such as site visits and workshops to help lobby for a national
system that provides teaching assistants in mainstream schools with SNE teacher support.
As the result of the pilot:
- Seventy-nine children (40 girls and 39 boys) with deafblindness are achieving their individual education goals as a result of accessing inclusive education.
- Seventy-nine teaching assistants (64 women and 15 men) have been recruited, trained, and mentored to support children with deafblindness and MSI in schools.
- The government is now aware of the needs of children with deafblindness and understands the need to develop a system for providing teaching assistants in mainstream schools through the new National Strategies for Inclusive Education.
- Families of deafblind children have changed their perception and attitudes towards disabilities and now let their children interact with others and allow them to participate in inclusive school education. Parents who previously would have stayed at home to look after their children are now able to work and earn money.
- Schools have started improving their environment to accommodate children with disabilities. For example, ramps and toilets have been constructed in Kiungwe, Maweteta, Mgagao, and Majengo primary schools.