Friday, 12 July 2013

The disability plight

This week, the team and I officially began our first working week in the HSB office. In the beginning of the week we discussed the aims and objectives of the organisation and assigned ourselves an area to lead. We came up with a three month plan map to help us navigate our daily and weekly tasks in the office more efficiently.

One of my objectives was to work with Franceline (national volunteer) in teaching intermediate English lessons to staff and members in order to improve their technical skills and competences.

We did this by using reading and listening comprehension quizzes. The reading comprehension was based on the British political system while the listening gap quiz was focused on Carole King’s ‘will you still love me tomorrow’. The goal was for the participants to practice their English listening skills by listening to the song and then filling in the gaps. The staff greatly enjoyed the listening exercise and have even fallen in love with Carole King’s work.

This week, we were also introduced to HSB’s Espace Bambino programme, a weekly playgroup and education centre, run by HSB staff and volunteers on Thursdays. The programme provides families with disabled children in Ouagadougou the chance to meet regularly and participate in advice sessions in a social setting. Children who require physical therapy are given a free session with a physiotherapist, and everyone attending receives a free lunch. The children all suffer from a range of disabilities.

My first day at Espace Bambino was undoubtedly daunting. I found myself emotional as I struggled to comprehend how the children were having to cope with the permanent after effects of preventable diseases. I grew particularly attached to a young two year old girl by the name of Zoueratou who contracted malaria at 3 months and now suffers from a range of disabilities (epilepsy, blindness, deafness and paralysis) as a result.

It is estimated that 10 percent of the population of Burkina Faso is disabled. Disability here is greatly frowned upon. Many people here believe that disability is a punishment for a bad deed thus people with disabilities are treated unjustly. They are excluded socially, politically, economically and worst of all educationally.

Disabled children in Burkina Faso face a number of difficulties in receiving an education: schools are generally not adapted for wheelchairs, there are often no specialist staff, and sometimes parents do not see the point in educating their disabled child. Children are sometimes refused entry to schools based on their disability. This has contributed to a level of illiteracy of 99% amongst disabled people and a university entry rate of only 0.2% for this same group. At present, there are a number of schools for disabled children in Burkina Faso but only one that specifically offers education to physically disabled children: Espace Bambino.

- Aminata

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