International Day of the African Child: Hope for Children with Disabilities
By Kathy Griffith and Bella DiFilippo*
The International Day of the African Child has been commemorated since 1991. It honors those who participated in the 1976 Soweto Uprising when about 10,000 black South African children marched to protest the poor quality of their education. They also demanded the right to education in their own language. More than one hundred students were killed in the protests, and more than one thousand were injured. In addition to remembering those who lost their lives in the uprising, the International Day of the African Child is designed to raise awareness about children’s education.
The Importance of Education
The Global Health Unit of Global Ministries recognizes the significance of education for all children. Every child should have the opportunity to go to school, no matter the cost. Through its partnership with United Methodist associations, the Abundant Health Initiative is paying the school fees of several students with disabilities who are attending schools in Nigeria, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Liberia.
PHOTO: DAVID WORLOBAH
Children in Nigeria and Eastern DRC
Children with disabilities in Nigeria and eastern DRC are generally enrolled in schools, however their parents are not exempt from paying school fees. The Abundant Health Initiative will pay for tuition fees for disabled children from United Methodist families who are enrolled in schools in Nigeria and eastern DRC. The following are some of their stories:
• Lami is 17 years old. She grew up in the local church’s orphanage and is now attending the high school in Jalingo. She had polio as a little girl that has left her with a profound limp. She doesn’t need assistance to walk, but her friends help her with tasks like fetching a bucket of water and lifting heavy objects.
• Isaac is 12 years old. Although he’s blind, he is a student in the UMC Ron Wilmot Junior School, in the Northern Nigeria Annual Conference. The school authorities are making arrangements to send him to a school for the blind where his parents will have pay more, but his education may be easier.
• Ada and Esther are 10 and 12 years old. They’re from eastern DRC and attend special schools run by the government or other organizations.
Students listen during class at the United Methodist Mangobo Primary School in Kisangani, Democratic Republic of Congo. PHOTO: MIKE DUBOSE
From the Headmaster at Hope for the Deaf School in Liberia
Hope for the Deaf School is a Global Ministries-funded program through the Liberia Annual Conference. The Abundant Health Initiative will pay for Hope for the Deaf student school fees.
David Worlobah, headmaster of Hope for the Deaf, explains more about the school:
“Our school is called Hope for the Deaf and we’re located in The United Methodist Church’s Headquarters in Monrovia, Liberia. Our goal is to provide deaf and hearing-impaired children with the opportunity to develop meaningful, productive lives. Most of our students commute at least two miles daily to get to and from school.
The school has developed multiple programs in essential academic subjects, skills training, sign language training, inclusive education, and lessons for parents of deaf children to learn sign language.
Our Elementary Division is up to grade six. Children then transition to the junior high division (middle school) and later to high school where they’ll study with hearing students from the community—this is what we refer to as inclusive education. We’ve graduated five deaf students from grade 12 in three years and are expecting to graduate two more at the end of the 2017 academic year. We don’t have a high school for deaf students, and so there are many students who can’t complete grade 12, which is unfortunate.
We have 64 students for the 2016–2017 academic year: 24 girls and 40 boys. In the inclusive education program, and in collaboration with the Free Pentecostal High School in down town Monrovia, we have 14 students in Grades 7 to 12: nine boys and five girls.”
Students at Hope for the Deaf in Liberia spend time learning life skills, like sewing, in their classes. PHOTO: DAVID WORLOBAH
Impact Children Today
Education is vital to all children, everywhere. It improves their lives, health knowledge, and choices. This year on International Day of the African Child, consider giving to the Global Health Unit to support its efforts to impact the lives of children everywhere.
*Kathy Griffith is the program manager for the Global Health Unit’s Mother, Newborn, and Child Health program. Bella DiFilippo is Program Area Liaison from Communications for Global Ministries.