Inclusive education for the many people

Hey all, my name is Eunkyu. Me and my team are super excited about being members of IWitness team 2016 and now we are about to get on the plane to Chengdu, China. Everyone working at IKEA probably knows about our Soft Toys for Education campaign, donating €1 for every soft toy sold to Save the Children and UNICEF. Thorough the IWitness programme, we have an opportunity to see how the IKEA Foundation creates better education for the many children. Before I start to share our story, please let us to have a short introduction of each of the team members.

Credit: Eunkyu Park
Credit: Eunkyu Park

From left of top line: Joon (Recovery Co-worker, IKEA Gwangmyeong Store, Korea) “I was curious about how IKEA’s Good Cause campaign actually supports children around the world. I believe that seeing and experiencing how activities by the NGOs supported by the IKEA Foundation can influence children’s lives will increase motivation for working at IKEA.”

Linda (Staff Planning Specialist, IKEA Helsingborg store, Sweden) “My expectations for the IWitness trip are really high. I hope we will meet deeply dedicated and wonderful people who, through the inclusive education project, contribute to making a difference for children here in China. Hopefully we will have a better understanding of what the challenges for them are, and that that understanding will address the work that remains to be done to spread inclusive education as a natural way of teaching and giving all children the same possibility to fulfil their dreams.”

Jannike (E&R Co-worker, IKEA Helsingborg Store, Sweden) “Getting the chance to meet children, parents and staff working with the projects that benefit all children’s right to fair education is just one of the things I hope to experience during the trip. Hopefully, I’ll get to hear stories about their everyday life, and how the inclusive education programme has made a change for children as well as teachers. Stories that, afterwards, I will make sure to share with you all, hoping to motivate and engage even more people to be a part of a work that has just begun.”

Bokyung (Sales/Lighting Co-worker, IKEA Gwangmyeong Store, Korea) “I’m so excited to have a chance to understand how the Good Cause campaign of IKEA influences in reality and expect to learn valuable lessons from a wonderful journey. Because it feels this campaign and the IWitness programme will be a part of my motivation in carrying on my life in IKEA.”

Sienna (Children’s IKEA Co-worker, IKEA Gwangmyeong Store, Korea) “I’m happy to join in this honourable programme. IWitness trip will be a valuable experience for me in that I will be able to meet children who are supported from the Soft Toys for Education campaign that I’ve been working for. I hope I inspire people to get involved our Good Cause campaign.”

Jangmi (Local Marketing Specialist, IKEA Gwangmyeong Store, Korea) “Since I am responsible for the Good Neighbour project in Gwangmyeong store, this journey will be really meaningful and valuable for me. I hope that I get a lot of motivations and brilliant ideas here in China.”

Not too serious but not too casual

It was a rainy day. Getting on board in Seoul, I felt a bit confused. When Korean participants were selected for the IWitness trip 2016, we were (at least I was) more than confident about the trip. We have great energy and passion. We shared ideas and set up the plans. Then why are these nervous feelings getting bigger? Bokyung approached me, walking through the exit to Chengdu airport, and said: “Can’t wait to meet children! Can’t wait to share this amazing story with my colleagues.”Yes, she is right. This is why we are here. We are here to meet children and to share what we are about to see with people as IWitnesses of the IKEA Foundation. We just do what we have prepared and just enjoy. That’s all.

Finally we have arrived at Chengdu airport. Credit: Bokyung Kim
Finally we have arrived at Chengdu airport. Credit: Bokyung Kim

Growing City, Chengdu

Chengdu was somewhat surprising. What we encountered right after landing at Chengdu airport was a well-organised metropolitan city. Listening to Gangnam Style, which our driver selected for us while heading to centre of Chengdu city, the genuine question arose in our heads. What is the reason for inviting us here to Chengdu?

On the way to Chengdu city. Credit: Joon Lee
On the way to Chengdu city. Credit: Joon Lee

Inclusive education

It wasn’t good start, because of fantastic spicy dinner called hot pot from last night. But I can see willpower, with anticipation, in the eyes of my team members. We were very grateful that Grace, from Save the Children China, came from Beijing to see and guide us. It took 30 minutes to arrive at the Sichuan office of Save the Children. We were welcomed with warm and generous hospitality by Luo Liqian, Education Project Manager, and her team. She shared about what they have achieved for 2016 in a difficult situation. The agenda for entire campaign is “Inclusive Education” which is that children with disabilities can study with regular students at the same school. In order to implement this project, Save the Children is not only supporting regular schools to have resource room teachers, but also trying to change awareness of disabled children.

Luo Liqian, Education Project Manager, presents the achievements of the China office in 2016. Credit: Bokyung Kim
Luo Liqian, Education Project Manager, presents the achievements of the China office in 2016. Credit: Bokyung Kim

Yiqi Shangxue Ba – Let’s go to school TOGETHER

After meeting with people at the Save the Children office, we headedto a special education school called Wuhou Resource Centre Special Education School. We were guided to the music class to see how the children enjoyed the classes with friends. They were so excited to meet us and, after 10 minutes, we interacted with children by using our bodies and dancing. We were so inspired by them, especially by a teacher, named Yang Li Min. She was so passionate and filled with energy. As she said: “They are like snails, they just move forward slowly. It just takes more time.”

Dancing with children at Wuhou Resource Centre. Credit: Joon Lee
Dancing with children at Wuhou Resource Centre. Credit: Joon Lee

We are not different

Our final destination for today is Taiping Primary school, Wuhou district. This school is the first example of an inclusive education project. As a good first example, we could get to know how they organised the curriculum well and prepared for inclusive education with qualified teachers. It was hard to recognise that the children had disabilities, because they were very focused in class. However, they have intellectual disabilities, hearing problems and learning difficulties. These children attend normal classes and, at the same time, they take additional special classes from resource teachers. This is an ideal model of inclusive education, which Save the Children is encouraging.

Passionate at schooling. Credit: Joon Lee
Passionate at schooling. Credit: Joon Lee
Playing basketball with children. Credit: Joon Lee
Playing basketball with children. Credit: Joon Lee

Right place for change

I had some stereotyped images of children with disabilities and I expected to see the hardships they have to face. Contrary to that, the children I’ve met today looked so bright and lively. Their teachers were full of confidence and the curriculum was well-organised. Chengdu is the capital city of Sichuan. People are well-off and they are more open to new things. This is the right place to start the change. This is the reason Save the Children implemented their agenda here. Now I started to see this city with different aspect. This city is just into the deep sleep. Goodnight!

Walking to the office of Save the Children in Chengdu. Credit: Jangmi Kim
Walking to the office of Save the Children in Chengdu. Credit: Jangmi Kim
English
    Eunkyu Park