After a long day of travelling and a good night’s sleep, it was time to visit the first project at a primary school in Weishan county.
We started the day having breakfast at 7.30 in a local restaurant. The choice was a sugared rice cake or spicy rice noodles, a great way to start the day.
Around 8.30 we went to the Gucheng Primary School, where we got a tour. First, we were shown the three buildings, of which most space is used for classes. As well as those rooms, there are dormitories, a music room, a computer room and the resource room. The dormitories are for the children who come from other villages, as not all villages have schools. The resource room is used for the children who need extra support, in the inclusive learning project.
After the tour, the headmaster of the school gave us a presentation. He explained that the school was founded in 2012 and joined the inclusive education project in 2012. The money donated by the IKEA Foundation through Save the Children has been used to create the resource room and teach a core team of 13 teachers. These teachers were educated to know how to work with children with disabilities and include them in a class with the other children.
At the end of the presentation, almost all children came outside to perform a local traditional Li dance as morning exercise. Then one class of about 40 children remained for a physical education class, which we joined. One of these children had a learning disability and we later visited his extra education lesson. It consisted of several running exercises in strict order from the teacher, which helps the children to learn listen to the teachers.
A delicious lunch at the school was a much-needed break after the exhausting lesson. It also was a good preparation for the rest of the day. We first went to the resource room to attend a grammar and maths class for an eight-year-old child with a severe learning disability. Four classmates without a learning disability joined him, so he could learn from them, but they could also learn to be around him. The physical education lesson they had before wasn’t easy for him either, as he had difficulty remembering the steps that had to be taken. That’s why, after the grammar class, he had an extra physical education class to help him remember the moves and steps that were taken.
We ended the interactive part of the part of the project visit with a game with a different group of students. We had to partner with one of the students and follow the directions the teacher showed us. If you weren’t able to, you had to do a task. The task was to make any of the children laugh, which ended in some pretty hilarious situations! It was great to see all the smiles on the faces of all those happy children.
But, like the presentation of the headmaster, there were also some more serious parts of the day. The director of the county education bureau showed us the improvement they made with the project in general. In three years in the Weishan county, five primary schools joined the project. The plan is to expand this in the upcoming year to 10 schools, a result to be very proud of! The education bureau makes the base for the project: they educate teachers, monitor them, support the teachers on making personal plans for the students and evaluate their progress.
At the end of the day at the school, there was some time left to exchange gifts. After this, the director of the county education bureau invited us to dinner. He took us to a beautiful local restaurant and showed us some local specialties. Among others, Yunnan vegetables and pork tongue were on the menu; all very tasty!