Disability must not be a barrier to girls' education

Published: Feb 24, 2023 Reading time: 3 minutes
Hanna Keid story
© Mihiret Wasihun

Things were going smoothly for Hanna; she was a happy and smiling child until she turned two and developed an ear infection resulting in a perforation. Along with hygiene, nutrition and poverty may also contribute to hearing impairment. Hanna's hearing deteriorated gradually, and she was forced to leave school… that is, until she joined our CHANGE project.

Hanna Keid is a 13-year-old girl living in the Gedio Zone in Southern Ethiopia. "I have five children, and I adopted Hanna when she was little. She has been a delightful, cheerful child, and we have had an extraordinary relationship since the beginning. Around two and a half years old, she began to whimper and scratch her ear. We paid her no heed. As the days went on, the pain got worse and worse. We assumed she had a stomach ache because she always cries," said her father.

As Hanna aged, she began to lose her ability to respond quickly, so people sometimes had to repeat things they had previously said. Her father is blind, and she used to accompany him on the streets. However, when she turned ten, she lost all of her hearing. Because of this disability, she could no longer support her father.

The setting for a better learning environment

"I sat in the front of the class at school, but since I couldn't hear what the teacher was saying, I found participating difficult. Because of the scent of the discharge coming from my ear, my classmates and friends were uninterested in playing with me. In addition to my hearing issue, bullying was another reason I might have quit attending school,” said Hanna.

Many children with disabilities, like Hanna, are excluded from community life in the Gedio Zone. To transform how people in the community view people with disabilities, People in Need (PIN) has been working for the past four and a half months to construct comfortable classrooms and hire qualified Alternative Basic Education (ABE) and Integrated Functional Adult Literacy (IFAL) instructors, to establish Gender Clubs at each of the four intervention schools. We are setting up Safeguarding Departments to enable students to report harassment from the neighbourhood and school.

Additionally, IFAL students who have reached the age of 18 can participate in the CHANGE project as interns. The project offers short-term food production and hair design training to secure an income for individuals who wish to launch a small business to improve their lives.

Medical assistance for children with disabilities

Girls with hearing, vision, and other health issues receive surgical treatment from Amref Health Africa - Medical Collaboration Committee in cooperation with PIN. One of the recipients of the ear surgery was Hanna. On examination, they found that she had a perforated left eardrum and hearing loss in both ears. After Hana's procedure, her wound healed well, and her hearing returned to almost normal levels. Since then, her hearing has improved even more, and she can hear easily.

Due to her hearing impairment, Hanna previously left school but recently resumed her education.

"I now sit at the back, and I hear everything! My listening skills make me a top student in my class. I’ve made friends, and they take me to the playground. I am very thankful,” she said.

Within the CHANGE project, medical support was provided for 226 girls with disabilities. PIN and partner organisations have constructed 129 learning centres, and 25,000 girls have enrolled in our alternative learning programmes. About 184 Gender Clubs were established to emphasise girls' education's importance and create a safe space to discuss protection issues.

The CHANGE project in Ethiopia is funded by UK aid through the Girls' Education Challenge (GEC). The project was launched in 2012, and it is a 12-year commitment to providing the most marginalised girls in the world with quality education and learning.

People in Need—together with Concern Worldwide, Welthungerhilfe, Helvetas Swiss Intercooperation, Amref Health Africa Foundation, and two national partners, FSA and GPDI—is working on projects to bring vulnerable girls back to school.

Autor: Mihiret Wasihun Teklu

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