By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
An innovative program that helps children with disabilities gain access to quality inclusive and protective education bagged an international award for ensuring equal learning opportunities for the most disadvantaged girls and boys.
Save the Children Philippines’ (SCP) Kabataang Aralin sa Lahat Ibahagi (KASALI) program won in the prestigious Zero Project awards initiated by Vienna-based Essl Foundation.
The Zero Project aims to “recognize the most innovative and effective solutions to the problems of persons with disabilities throughout the world” through the award.
The KASALI program won the Innovative Practice 2020 on Inclusive Education because of its “multifaceted approach to help children with disabilities through an integrated multi-sectoral approach that meaningfully engages the home, schools, government, and communities to work together and address the needs of children with disabilities.”
SCP Chief Executive Officer Atty. Alberto Muyot welcomed the Zero Project award and its contribution to the advocacy to promote the rights of children with disabilities.
“Children with disabilities suffer compounding difficulties that render them vulnerable to exclusion from and within education,” said the former Undersecretary of the Department of Education (DepEd).
Education for children with disabilities
Meanwhile, the SCP has been pushing for the enactment of the Inclusive Education bill for Learners with Disabilities that focuses on the responsibility of the education system, parents, and communities to adapt to the learning needs of learners with disabilities.
The results of the consultation with learners with disabilities and their parents held on November 2019 were incorporated in the proposed policy. Through the support of the Senate and House committees on basic education, DepEd, the academe, and other government agencies and civil society organizations, the bill is moving towards approval this Congress.
SCP Basic Education Advisor Sierra Mae Paraan also highlighted that there is more to be done for children with disabilities and other vulnerable children.
“There are many children with disabilities who are out of school,” she said, stressing the need to develop programs for children who suffer from intersectional vulnerabilities.
Paraan said that the lack of appropriate programs for children with special needs “exponentially affects their future and potentially exclude them from government services,” thus “we need to work together and collaborate for solutions.”
SCP said 739 children with disabilities have been enrolled in identified schools in Parañaque, Taguig, and Pateros since the implementation of the KASALI project in 2014.
“Children enrolled in the KASALI project showed improvement in their cognitive and social skills through participation in school and community activities, and have learned to trust their teachers and peers,” SCP said in a statement.