KWO developed and implements the Special Education Project because we believe in “Education for All”. We identified a gap in the mainstream education and social service systems in our communities and we set up this project to address that need.
1. Project Goal
To promote the basic rights of all children and youth living with disabilities in Karen refugee camps and in Karen State by supporting and expanding the care and educational services to those children and youth along with their families, and by strengthening community awareness and acceptance.
We implement this project in 11 sites:
- In the 7 Karen-majority refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border which are Mae Ra Ma Laung, Mae La Oon, Mae La, Umpiem Mai, Nu Po, Htam Hin, Ban Dong Yang
- In one Internally Displaced Persons camp (IDP camp) which is Ee Tu Hta
- and in 3 districts of Karen State (Mu Traw District, Doo Playa, and Doo Th’ Htoo District).
The Special Education (SE) project is a community-based rehabilitation project which directly benefits some of the most vulnerable members of our community. This project supports disabled children’s educational and personal development and the programs are crafted to meet each child’s particular needs. The project assists parents to understand and strengthen good childcare practices so their child receives the best care possible. Under this project, the KWO advocates and raises awareness in the community for respect of the rights of children with disabilities, for increased access to education, and for inclusion in community life. The project is entirely staffed and managed by Karen women who live in the communities they serve.
This project is the only one of its kind in the refugee camps and in Karen State providing assistance to children with disabilities and their families. The project is well-established in the 7 Karen-majority refugee camps and we run a full program at these sites. Since 2018 we have been expanding the project into Karen State, increasing coverage year by year and adding activities sustainably over time. The situation in Karen State is much more challenging than the refugee camps, to provide any kind of social services, and especially for people living with disabilities. The Burmese Army is more and more present in Karen State where they impose administrative structures in townships, the soldiers attack villages, abuse civilians, loot and destroy property, build roads and army posts, and steal land. As a consequence the SE project activities are more limited there.
4. Beneficiaries and Participants
In the 2020-21 academic year:
- A total of 699 children and youth living with disability benefitted from this project (342 in Refugee Camps, and 367 in Karen State).
- About 2,000 parents and carers of children with disability received training and support.
- 58 mainstream school teachers received classroom support.
- 600 community leaders learnt more about disability and inclusion
- 4,000 community members learnt more about child rights, child protection and disability rights.
5. Main Activities
The main services and activities we provide are:
- Early Intervention Program (Support for children at home or in the SE Centres)
- Inclusive Education Program (Support for children in mainstream schools)
- Deaf Program
- Blind Program
- Needs assessments and development planning for each child
- Run 11 SE Centres (in Refugee camps only)
- Play Sessions
- Small Group Learning
- Teacher training
- Home Visits
- Parents Education
- Nutrition and Hygiene Support
- Montessori methods and materials
- Outreach Program (in Karen State)
- Community advocacy to promote inclusion
- Special Events
- Publications and Resources (35 titles developed and used in our project to date) eg. Karen Sign Language for the deaf, DVD’s. See them on YouTube.
An Individual Education Plan guides and monitors each child’s development in 6 skill areas:
- Physical Development
- Language and Literacy Skills
- Mathematical Development
- Self-Reliance and Independence Skills
- Social Skills
- Creative Development
In collaboration with community leaders we have established Special Education (SE) Committees in all sites which ensure the participation of the community and local governance structures. The committees’ role is to increase local support and understanding for the children and their families and to help KWO with the logistics of this project’s activities.
6. Who does the work?
There are 109 project staff implementing this project. This includes more than 60 full-time special needs teachers who are the main contact point with children, families and communities and who deliver and organise all the activities. Most project staff are women, and a small number of men work as babysitters, nightguards plus one teacher of the deaf.
7. The Impact
Children living with disability become more independent when they are enrolled with this project. They learn to walk, communicate with their parents, move around, and can feed or dress themselves. They can access education, a fundamental right of all children.
The children are healthier and happier. They put on weight, improve personal and family hygiene, meet and make friends, and are included more in the social life of the community. Parents and community members gain deeper understanding and practical skills.
This project has created positive change in our families and communities. We have seen huge improvements in the quality of life for children with disability and their families and greater understanding and acceptance in the community.