In our 2017 Year in Review blog series, we share some of our achievements from our 2017 Annual Review. Last year, Children in Crisis made some significant strides in reaching forgotten children with education and protection services. In part one, we provide an overview of our key projects in Sierra Leone and Liberia, including further insight from our West Africa Programme Manager, James Avery.
2017 Year in Review: West Africa
Country insight: Sierra Leone
Last October, I was in Sierra Leone to see some of the children from our Residential Rehabilitation Centre go to school for the first time. The Centre is a place for children who have disabilities to live and to learn together (and get treatment if needed).
The children are from rural parts of Kambia province where there are no schools or where their families are too poor to pay the fees. Often, the nearest school can be 5 miles away on foot through rough terrain. Not remotely accessible for children with physical impairments.
In this part of the world, the rights of children with disabilities are very rarely understood. This often leads to disabled children being neglected or abandoned by their families and ostracized by their communities. As a result, young disabled children are made more vulnerable through homelessness, isolation and begging. This is no life for a child.
An important part of the centre’s work is to help change these negative attitudes towards disability and at the same time empower children – you’ll often hear children tell others that ‘disability is not inability’. It’s truly inspiring.
I was fortunate enough on my trip to accompany a group of children on their first day of school. I saw what it meant to them to be able to do what every other child has the right to do across the world – learn with their peers, and to not have their disability be a barrier.
James Avery, West Africa Programme Manager
West Africa: a snapshot of 2017
- 1,400 school children have safe, clean drinking water from new wells and hand pumps located at the community schools
- 80% reduction in the number of students missing school due to improved water sanitation and hygiene
- More than 500 women have set up and are running their own businesses through our Vocational Training Programme
- 1,446 children now eat regular meals and have school fees paid for by their entrepreneurial mothers
- 50 teachers from 10 primary and secondary schools have received training on child-centred teaching methodologies and inclusive education techniques
- 63 out of school or vulnerable children with disabilities have received bursaries for the 2017-2018 school year, including the direct payment of school fees, learning materials, and provision of mobility aids such as crutches
Improving access to education for disabled children
In 2017, we have improved access to education for children with disabilities, through our partnership with the Welfare Society for the Disabled (WESOFOD), by removing the barriers preventing children with disabilities from attending school; by training teachers in inclusive education methods, challenging the cultural stigma surrounding children with disabilities, raising awareness, and directly helping the most vulnerable children at our Residential Rehabilitation Centre. In particular, WESOFOD’s work on advocacy and policy has been pivotal. Kambia is an especially deprived region in one of the world’s poorest nations. It just isn’t feasible for a family to be able to afford the expense of a wheelchair or crutches. If a disabled child wants to get to school they must depend on being carried by relatives or friends. The project has helped to make target schools more socially inclusive places where pupils with disabilities and other stigmatised conditions now have friends and are fully included in lessons. Children have access to WASH facilities, and practise positive hygiene. Ramps and other modifications have improved access for children with mobility impairments.
Vocational Training Programme
Between June 2015 and August 2017 our Vocational Training Programme addressed the pervasive poverty, lack of education, food insecurity and gendered inequalities that women face in Rivercess County, in the south east of Liberia. We provided training and support to women to establish businesses in Pastry and Soap making. We enabled access to savings and loans schemes which give women the ability to deal with financial shocks when they occur. Complementing these courses, adult literacy, numeracy and life skills classes were provided to all women to rectify the inhibitive lack of education.
Water, sanitation and health (WASH)
Child health is one of the most important factors in school attendance and learning, and in 2017 we addressed a critical lack of clean water and sanitation facilities, and low levels of basic health and hygiene understanding. At seven schools, we built a new water point, a hand dug well with a water pump and apron. We also built two latrine blocks at each school, together with tippy-tap hand-washing stations. To help communities reap the full benefit of these facilities, we promoted safe wash practices through peer-to-peer training at the schools and in the wider community, led by the students themselves. The improved sanitation and clean water facilities, together with education about the importance of good WASH practices, has improved children’s practices towards their health and reduced the spread of illness and disease.