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Sierra Leone News: Inclusive Education is not an option is Sierra Leone

“My name is Sewanatu. I am 18 years old and I’m part of Plan International Sierra Leone’s Youth Advisory Panel in Koinadugu and National child and Youth activist.I have always been challenged whenadvocating for persons with disability. In my country Sierra Leone, inclusive education is a big challenge for children and young people with disability especially young girls but less talked about. Most girls can’t access secondary school after the National Primary School Examination (NPSE) because their communities do not have secondary schools, so they have to move to big cities to acquire secondary school education. In this process, they are exposed to so many challenges like teenage pregnancy, early marriage, child trafficking, child labor etc.
Also, most primary and secondary schools do not have provision for persons with disability like mobility access rams, friendly classrooms, friendly WASH facilities and many more. I met a girl who was 17 years old that told me her story which was really touching. Her name is Feremusu. Feremusu currently attends one of the biggest schools in my community and that there are no provision for persons with disability like her. Sadly, for Feremusu and for most young people especially girls, accessing the classroom is a daily painful activity and that most times she is late to school and having no one to assist her to class. Feremusu is considered as child of an evil background and often stigmatized as a witch and that has very little to contribute to society. Sometimes boy refused to help her and also shout at her by saying that “you are always like this asking people for help.”
Feremusu, can’t accesses any of the classroom by herself. She will always go home with tears in her face. One day after a long holiday, she told her parents that she will not go to that school until the government and partners provide rams for that school so that she will at least reduce the level of embarrassment she would have to face daily.
It really disheartening to see children, young girls who cannot go to school because of a crime they have not committed being born disabled. If Feremusu like many other young people and especially girls should have a future, organization like Plan International, UN agencies and other organization supporting childrenshould prioritize the needs of people with disabilities and include them in their Programmes.
This has been a very burdensome issues on my mind and that sometimes through advocacy, I have locally championed this with my colleagues but each time we are faced with limitations as to where and who will immediate support them. My colleagues and I have identified some of their needs;
Children with disability need disable friendly schools
Assistive devices like mobility aid, hearing aid, wheel chair, clutches, friendly classroom furniture etc.
Children with disability especially girls needs disable friendly washrooms
Children with disability need access to disable friendly commercial vehicles
They need trained and qualified teachers who can understand their needs and support them.
Children also require frequent psycho-social support.
I think we need awareness about their needs and the type of friendly support they should be assisted at all times. For me I have put the following together that:
Government and partners should prioritize persons with disability by seeking their consent in everything they do.
Government should pass a law that all government and private schools should be disabled friendly
Community people should give special attention to person with disability because disability is not inability
I hope to see these young people and girls live in a happy environment and are protected against abuse.
Friday October 13, 2017.

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