Children with Disabilities in Mali Realize Their Full Potential

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Mariam at the school library
Nicolas Remene, Sightsavers

Three years ago, nine-year-old Mariam Diallo was enrolled in an Inclusive Education pilot school. Mariam has low vision; her mother Kadiatou Gadjigo, who works as a teacher, explains “We discovered Mariam’s disability during the second year at primary school. She was often complaining about her eyes and her writing was unreadable. I saw that her disability was very serious. I was worried as this disability could lead to more serious problems in the future.”

With support from the American people, Mariam’s eyes were screened at school and she received glasses. Kadiatou saw rapid improvements in her daughter’s progress. “There were some great changes thanks to the corrective glasses given out by the project. My daughter sees with more accuracy, her writing is more readable...really it has changed,” stressed Kadiatou.

Mariam was among 144 children who received eye examinations at the project’s six pilot schools in 2020, with 90 low vision children receiving glasses. Mariam is now one of the top five pupils in her class. She has dreams of a future career in the media and says: “I want to continue studying to become a journalist.”

Through Mariam’s participation in the project, Kadiatou has become an advocate for inclusive education.  She is one of 50 teachers trained by the project on best practices for inclusion of children with various disabilities.  Kadiatou is applying this knowledge at the Falaba Issa Traore School, in Bamako. “The training helped me a lot at work. It helps me understand the importance of inclusivity in education. I can now explain this approach to my colleagues,” says Kadiatou.  Many parents in Mali still think that disabled children cannot go to school. Kadiatou is working to change this, “As a member of parent and teachers’ associations, I inform and raise awareness among parents so that they send their children to school despite their disabilities. All children have the right to a good education.”

As part of this pilot project, 180 people—including parents, teachers, community leaders, organizations for the disabled, parents and local officials—have taken part in sessions on inclusive education. The success of community advocacy persuading families of children with disabilities to access education is a sustainable legacy of the pilot project. 

Inclusive Education is a three-year U.S. $543,00 partnership between Sight Savers and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to improve education for Malian children with low vision and blindness. Tools for educational monitoring in schools and assessing children's reading and writing have been adapted to all children, including children with visual impairments. Braille has also been translated into the local language, Bamanankan, so that visually impaired children can fully participate in local language schooling. The transition rate for visually impaired students to upper classes is now averaging of 83% among children covered by the project which is significantly higher than the national average of 70%.

Last updated: September 21, 2021

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