Our day began with a visit to a school for special education in Pi county in Chengdu, China. I was feeling a bit nervous. I have visited schools for special education in the US, but I knew this would be different.
The Save the Children project in Pi county is in its infancy, and there are many obstacles to overcome. The children at the school were engaged and had a wonderful teacher. With great patience! The children had different ranges of abilities. The session we saw focused on color, shape, touch and hand co-ordination. All of kids were involved and we even joined in on the craft.
After the classroom observation, there was an information session with the teachers and people from the Board of Education. The educators spoke of the challenges for teaching children with different forms of abilities. Some of the challenges include handling different levels of learning, behavioral differences and assessing the students’ level of ability. As I listened, I reflected back on a video of a teacher with her students. There is something that transcends all language barriers; that something is the “love of all children and a passion for inclusion”. All children deserve the right to an education.
Pi county is finishing construction of their new special education school. The number of children with different abilities in this school is twenty. The new school will open its doors to over 100 students with different abilities. The school will have housing for children who travel far distances to attend the school. But it’s not just the new school that is needed; it’s the training of teachers that will make this school program a success.
After our group had lunch, we visited a school that had a resource center. Its students were mainstreamed into regular classrooms. We visited a classroom where a student with different abilities was in the class. We were met with a huge “Hello!” as we entered the room. I sat and watched the teacher tell a story about friendship and helping one another. The student participated with the class and was even helped by the others. This is truly what inclusion is all about. It’s about not being treated differently. It’s being involved and engaged with the process of learning.
We took lots of pictures that had many smiles. Save the Children is making a strong contribution to the rights of children with different forms of abilities. We are not just selling soft toys, we are changing lives.