In Sub-Saharan Africa, the prevalence of disabilities in children aged 0 – 14 years is unkown, with published estimates ranging from 6% to over 20%. What’s more, 90-98% of children with special needs are assumed to be out of school. This leads to incredibly low literacy rates (only 3% of adults with special needs in Sub-Saharan Africa are literate) and severely limited professional opportunities.
To overcome these challenges, children with special needs require the same opportunities to attend formal school and learn in inclusive environments. Through the Home-Based Education Programme, we provide individualised education plans for children and their families with the objective of seeing 75% of these children enrol in primary schools. These education-plans are delivered firstly in children’s homes, in conjunction with their parents, by community caregivers who have received extensive training on the biological, psychological and social challenges faced by children with special needs.
In 2021, we have a total of 172 children registered in our home-based education programme, with 60% of children enrolled in formal primary schools. By comparison, only 10% of children were enrolled in school when we piloted the programme in 2016. We have made significant strides over the last few years, with 16 teachers’ assistants now trained and deployed to primary schools to implement inclusive education, and several income generating projects developed for the benefit of our community caregivers. The programme focuses primarily on the 172 children with special needs, however our activities also directly benefit 1,400 community caregivers, parents and teachers across our focal areas.
A recent report published in Zambia cited 79% of families with children with special needs suffered substantial income loss over 2020, resulting in food insecurity. To assist residents in our areas, many of whom rely directly or indirectly on tourism for their livelihoods, we distributed three months’ worth of food hampers to all families on the Programme and the volunteer caregivers. In total, we gave out 693 hampers consisting of staple foods, fresh produce, protein, and basic household goods, which benefitted over 5,500 residents.