By Ed-Grant Ndoza
The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Malawi has registered its total commitment to team up with government in providing conducive environment for learners with physical challenges in primary schools to achieve their goals in education.
The commitment was expressed Thursday by Royal Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi, Steinar Egil Hagen when his office handed over a rehabilitated Resource Centre and newly constructed accessible modern toilets to Kaphuta Local Education Authority (LEA) Primary School, in Kaphuta Zone, in Mzimba South District.
The two disability friendly facilities have been rehabilitated and constructed by Save the Children International with financial support from the Norwegian Embassy, under inclusive education (IE) Program.
The Malawi government launched the inclusive education program in 2016, to champion special needs education issues, purposefully, to improve equal access to education by all leaners, irrespective of their status and biological differences.
Hagen emphasized that education was a right for all children which has to be enjoyed even by learners with disabilities.
Said Hagen: “Education is a right to all learners and deprivation of this right is a very serious violation of the same.”
The Ambassador described education as a crucial treasure to children with disabilities since it empowers them to make independent decisions on the type of life to lead to ensure self-reliance as well as to significantly contribute towards the socioeconomic development of their communities and the nation at large.
Hagen then expressed concern over tendencies by some misguided parents who sideline their physically challenged children, in favour of able-bodied ones, in provision of education, warning that the discriminated children become a perpetual burden to families when they grow up due to their absolute dependence on their parents to earn a living.
The Ambassador then pledged his office’s total support to government in its quest to alleviate special needs related challenges facing primary schools, through various inclusive education initiatives.
In her remarks, Country Director for Save the Children International, Kim Koch, saluted Royal Norwegian Embassy for bank-rolling her children affiliated organization to take a leading role in implementation of inclusive education program in Malawi.
“Let me commend the Royal Norwegian Embassy for providing technical and financial support which enabled my organization to successfully execute the rehabilitation and construction of a Resource Centre and accessible toilet, respectively,” said Koch.
She said her organization carried out the works of rehabilitation and construction of the Resource Centre and toilets in response to a request from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MOEST), through its Special Needs Education Department, to have the facilities improved in all program impact districts.
Koch said quality inclusive education has been singled out to be the right approach in education system to ensure that all learners, including those with physical challenges, enjoy equal access to education for them to realize their full potential in life.
“The inclusive education initiative ensures that no learner is denied education opportunities just because they have physical challenges,” observed Koch.
She said like the commitment by Royal Norwegian Embassy, Save the Children International will support the Ministry of Education and Technology in its endeavor to achieve and sustain quality inclusive education, which she said was one of the key pillars in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.
The country Director then urged education authorities, school management committee (SMC) and parents at large to ensure that the facilities are used for their intended purposes and timely maintained, as a symbol of friendship and appreciation to Norwegian government to attract more support.
“Proper care of the facilities will provide continuous opportunities for more children to learn and develop in a safe and inclusive learning environment,” said Koch.
Save the Children Team leader in Malawi, Ruth Kawale said her organization has rehabilitated nine resources centers and 10 accessible toilets in program impact districts of Mzimba South, Lilongwe Urban and Mangochi which have cost the organization a hooping $230,000.
Meanwhile, Malawi government has said it is indebted to both the Norwegian Embassy and Save the Children for the support in implementation of the quality inclusive education program which has registered positive impacts in boosting education of learners with physical challenges.
Chief Education Officer, responsible for inclusive education at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Peter Msendema said besides rehabilitation of resource centers and construction of accessible toilets in program impact schools, Save the Children has also supported learners with physical challenges with visual and hearing aids, special learning and teaching materials and other assistive devices such as clippers and wheel chairs.
“The donation of teaching and learning materials, assistive devices and visual and hearing aids are very expensive which government single handedly and with meager resources cannot afford. As government, we strongly commend our donors for the special support,” said Msendema.
Kaphuta School, boasting a total of 2,700 learners, with a total of 35 teachers, has two specialized teachers, taking charge of 96 children with physical challenges. Currently, 74 learners with physical challenges have been fully mainstreamed in regular classes. All the school’s 35 teachers have been oriented on the inclusive education initiative.