Italy funded two projects in Senegal: “Fare Scuola” and “Deecliq”. Children with disabilities, teachers, families and the community take part. Despite the many obstacles, inclusion comes about thanks to good laws and motivated people
The Rufisque school for everyone
Diol Kadd is a small savannah village about a three-hour drive from Dakar, the capital of Senegal. We came here from Parma thanks to Cuci (University Center for International Cooperation) to meet the needs of the local primary school, four long rectangular single-storey buildings facing each other and from which dozens of girls and boys enter and enter, intrigued. by the presence of us.toubab. The buildings have a perforated tin roof, wooden desks are worn by wear and, despite being a ground floor, to get to the classroom you have to climb three high concrete steps which are a challenge even for an adult , and less if he had to come.a child in a wheelchair at school. And around miles and miles there are only huts, brick houses and especially the savannah, with its sand, bushes, baobabs and kadd (a kind of acacia). Looking only from this perspective it would seem that talking about school inclusion in Senegal is a risky thing, but this feeling clashes with a different reality that breaks many of the ideas and prejudices we have about Africa.
Senegal is a country two-thirds the size of Italy, inhabited by about 16 million people, located in West Africa, in the Sahel, as only in Casamance, in its southernmost part, becomes the l ‘Green and lush Africa that everyone has. in mind. The population is young (the average age is 18.5 years) and only 51.9% of the population over the age of 15 can read and write (2017 data). Although the rate of development is very low compared to the West, political stability allows for rapid development. Senegal has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since 2010 and has specific laws governing the issue. The most important is the Los (social guidance law), also of 2010, which speaks directly to the right to school inclusion of students with disabilities in normal contexts, or in conjunction with others. This fact is not so obvious if we consider that Senegal is very culturally influenced by France, a country where the inclusion of children with disabilities still passes, mostly, through special schools, unlike Italy which instead proposes a more radical. If we add to this legislation that provides, since 2004, compulsory and free education for children aged 6 to 16, we have some reasons why Italy has a certain influence on the issue of school inclusion in the African country.
In the three-year period 2018-2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation funded the “Fare Scuola” project, aimed at improving the education of children with disabilities. More recently, it has funded the “Deecliq” project, which aims to improve the offer of inclusive education by working at various levels: in the training of future teachers, in community awareness, in raising the awareness of families. The project includes an online master’s degree, organized by Fastef (the Faculty of Science and Technology of Education in Dakar) and the University Center for International Cooperation in Parma, aimed at future teachers not only in Senegal but throughout the French-speaking Africa. .
While there are good laws and motivated people, making school inclusion in Senegal encounters a number of limitations. The degree of well-being of the population is very far away, I do not say of today’s Italy, but also of that of the late seventies, when in our country began this kind of experience. Lack of resources affects school buildings, school organization, teacher training degree. As Veronique Lepigre of the NGO Acra, leader of the “Deecliq” project, says: “A teacher with 60 children in the classroom cannot take care of the special needs of a single child. Then there is the problem of their education, there is a cultural blog., some teachers are not in favor of welcoming a child with a disability in the classroom “. Saliou Sene, inspector of the Ministry of Education, also states that “children with disabilities face many obstacles in school and in society. Inclusion is hampered by the barriers that constitute communication, infrastructure, even “The pedagogical tools of teachers. Laws, the problem is the social representations of disability in Senegal, this applies to both teachers and ordinary people.”
Despite these contradictions, inclusion in Senegal, or at least in Dakar and other major cities, because in the countryside the discourse becomes more difficult, he continues. Proceeding in a brave and also original way. Magatte Gadje is the principal of a large primary school in the department of Pikine, a large suburb of more than a million inhabitants east of central Dakar. He runs an inclusive school that can only be reached by dirt roads and the classrooms, full of children, contain only essentials and mostly spent. “Ministerial directives say to include a maximum of five blind children per class. And we did. We also hung signs in braille to indicate the different spaces, while at the community level we did awareness work on the issue of ‘school inclusion “”.
(The article is taken from the May issue of SuperAbile INAIL, the monthly Inail on disability issues)