Classmates, inclusive education teachers and lifelong friends, Pedro and Lorenzo have watched their school and remote community undergo great changes over the last 20 years.
Students in the same class at the Seloi Primary School in Aileu District, Pedro and Lorenzo completed their university studies together and returned to their old primary school as teachers, where they have worked together for the last 15 years. In this time they have taught through the end of the Indonesian occupation and Timor-Leste’s fight for independence.
In February 2015, Lorenzo and Pedro completed Plan’s Inclusive Education Teacher Training course. Over five days teachers learnt about different types of disabilities and different teaching methods to more effectively support students with a disability. In total 330 teachers across three districts have completed this course.
We are very proud to teach children with special needs and to support them with reading and writing.
"Most children here are very young. In this school we have mainstreamed children with disabilities into the classroom with the able-bodied students. This has made it more inclusive for all students,” said Lorenzo.
“During the training we learnt a lot of things. We learnt about Braille letters, sign language, improving classroom access and curriculum adaptation. We have been able to apply most of what we learnt in the classroom,” he said.
“After the training we have made some simple adaptations so that students with disabilities are given the maximum opportunity to learn and to write. We have also encouraged the other students to give peer to peer support in the classroom so they can help each other,” Pedro said.
In Aileu district less than 8% of children with disabilities attend school. This is mainly due to the social stigma against children with disabilities and the perception they are unable to learn. At Seloi Primary School seven of the 288 students have a disability or impairment, including hearing and visual impairments. Both Lorenzo and Pedro are supportive of all students attending their classes, but admit there is still some resistance from parents.
“There is a lack of support from the parents. Teachers welcome all students to come to school but it depends on the parents. All the other students are 100% supportive of the students with disabilities,” Pedro said.
“In our time there were no children with disabilities at the school. Parents kept them at home because they had a mindset that children with disabilities couldn’t go to school. Teachers also didn’t know the methodologies to teach them. After the training I have encouraged parents to send all their children to school and I have also changed my teaching style so the school is open to all students,” said Lorenzo.
Pedro and Lorenzo are now both Master Trainers and are able to share their knowledge with other teachers. “I’d recommend that teachers get more training, it’s important that all teachers have this knowledge,” said Lorenzo.
Both teachers have seen the difference that attending school can have on the confidence and well-being of all their students. “I think having students with disabilities attend school has had a very positive impact on their lives. Children with disabilities can become a success if their teacher makes these children a priority,” Pedro said.