Tajikistan: Persons With and Without Disabilities, Let’s Learn Together

Creating common learning places, without isolating children with disabilities

In Tajikistan, generally speaking, children with disabilities either study away from their families, at boarding schools established specifically for them, or they simply stay home without going to school. When children with disabilities are isolated in such a way, however, they lose contact with society, and society continues to show prejudice against them. In order to try to change this situation, AAR Japan has been engaged in activities to enable children with and without disabilities to study together in same schools. These activities have been undertaken in cooperation with local organizations for persons with disabilities, Rushdi Incluziya and IRODA, at School No. 28 and School No. 72 in the capital city of Dushanbe since January 2014.

School No. 28 actually started accepting children with disabilities nine years ago, as a result of direct negotiations with principals and requests from parents. However, the physical environments of the school had been far from “barrier free.” AAR, in response, installed wheelchair ramps and renovated toilets in the above two schools to make it more accessible for children with mobility difficulties. In addition, with a view to facilitating acceptance of children with disabilities by school teachers, staff, parents and schoolchildren, we have held various events aimed at deepening understanding of children with disabilities and conducted trainings for teachers and other school staff members.

School No. 28 is now equipped with a wheelchair ramp. (July 30th, 2014) 

The toilets without any partition were renovated into private toilets that can accommodate wheelchairs. (School No. 28, May 13th, 2014)

Schoolchildren naturally accepting children with disabilities 

Sabrina (age 11, grade 4) is paralyzed on the right side of her body due to polio and cerebral paralysis, but has been attending School No. 28 in wheelchair for five years, with the help of her mother and brother. Today, thanks to the ramps installed by AAR, the wheelchair does not need to be lifted when entering the school building, and she can go to the toilet by herself. “I play with balls and read tales with my classmates. When I cannot read well, my friends always help me,” said Sabrina. Sabrina, who is always cheerful and good at making friends, naturally attracts schoolmates.

Sabrina (left), who goes to School No. 28 in wheelchair, shows her drawing to KAIZAWA (right), AAR Tajikistan Office staff. (October 2nd, 2014)

Happy school life promotes self-confidence

Evangelina (age 8, grade 2) suffered from a cerebral tumor and, as a result, has weak memory and is often restless. Her mother, Tatiyana, was worried about which school Evangelina should attend. Having heard about School No. 28 through a leaflet produced by a cooperating organization, she decided to send Evangelina to
School No. 28 in September 2013. Tatiyana said, “I was very anxious how other children would act towards Evangelina at first. But having seen many of them quickly becoming good friends with her, I am not anxious any more. By going to school every day and by being loved by other children, Evangelina’s self-confidence has increased. In my community, local people do not yet have adequate understanding toward persons with disabilities, and neighboring children do not play with Evangelina. That is one of the reasons why Evangelina is so happy with her friendly schoolmates here.” Her words eloquently tell how grateful and relieved she felt when she saw her daughter being received in such a friendly manner by the school and starting to enjoy her school life.

Evangelina loves school. On her right is KAIZAWA. (October 2nd, 2014) 

Trial and error of teachers 

In contrast to School No. 28, School No. 72 only started accepting children with disabilities at the time of the start of the support activities of AAR. One teacher here, Ms. Karimova (teacher for grade 1), is responsible for a boy with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “The boy has difficulties in speaking, and finds it hard to pronounce words that I am teaching in the class, and sometimes it takes him a long time to finish a sentence. Recently, however, he has been able to greet me well every day, and I am happy about it,” said Ms. Karimova. She told us that previously she thought that children with disabilities were better off studying among themselves, separated from other children without disabilities. However, having seen how other children interact with the boy with disabilities, and how the boy himself has developed his abilities, she started thinking that learning together, among children both with and without disabilities, may be a better way.

Ms. Karimova (left), a teacher at School No. 72, has been in charge of children with disabilities for one month.  Within this role, “trial and error” is part of her everyday life. (October 2nd, 2014)

 Extending inclusive education to other schools

A total of 77 teachers and other staff members, not only from School No.28 and School No. 72, but also from 56 other schools have participated in the training workshops organized by AAR. AAR also provides individual consulting services upon request. We will continue our program, with a view that the positive progress seen in these two schools can be extended to many other schools. 

Mai KAIZAWA, AAR Tajikistan Office
KAIZAWA has been working for AAR Japan since December 2012. Having graduated from a graduate school in the United Kingdom, she worked in Cambodia as an NGO staff member, before joining AAR. “It is my pleasure to hear from children how much they enjoy their school life,” says KAIZAWA. She is from Kanagawa Prefecture. (profile as of the date of the article)
Japanese-English translation by Mr Yukio Kiuchi
English editing by Mr Richard Whale

The article on this page has been translated by volunteers as part of the AAR Volunteer Programme. Their generous contributions allow us to spread our activities and ideas globally, through an ever-growing selection of our reports from the field.