Hien, 14, is a 6th grader at a school in Boussoukoula, in the south west of Burkina Faso. He was born with mental and motor disabilities. He is not a sponsored child, but lives in a Plan International programme unit. School life has not been that easy for him - children were afraid of him because they believed he had special magical powers, and nobody wanted to get close to him. Plan International’s Quality Inclusive Education Project aims to involve children improving the quality of their learning and including their peers living with disabilities.
Teachers in Hien’s school were inclined to reject children with mental disabilities, as they shared the perceptions that those children were strange and incapable of learning. The school director confesses that he once rejected a child with disabilities, but since he participated in Quality Inclusive and Participatory Education Project, his attitude changed.
The teachers and community leaders went through training and children were taught how to accommodate peers living with disabilities. Now, a different attitude towards them prevails in Boussoukoula.
The Director said: “Since I got the training, I see people living with disabilities differently. I have noticed that Hien for instance is very dynamic. He participates in the school activities and surprises everybody; before, we thought that children like him could not do that good.”
The teachers now consider Hien’s talking and learning speed and take the required time to help him progress. The children accept him now; he himself has realised that he can do many things. Always among friends, Hien is the school government communications minister and stands among students and community as a great source of tolerance, acceptation and consideration for disabled people.
He comments: “In the past, I was feeling rejected and useless. Now, I am very happy; when I received the present from the teachers’ associations, I was like a star.”
In Boussoukoula today, teachers write poems on inclusion and children read them. Children also perform drama pieces focusing on inclusion, creating a very conducive and friendly learning environment for children like Hien.