Inclusive online education: children and youth with disabilities find new opportunities in Donbas during COVID-19 pandemicPublished: Aug 11, 2021 Reading time: 4 minutes
The problem of inclusion of children with disabilities into the education process in eastern Ukraine is not new, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, it become a real barrier for those children to access online lessons or classes due to many reasons: starting from no or limited internet connection in the rural area, lack of computers or tablets up to the issue related to lack of professionals to conduct those classes in the area.
“With the COVID-19 related limitations regarding the gatherings of people and switching to online meetings, classes and events, I was very much afraid that my daughter would simply stay at home doing nothing but playing on her computer or using the phone,” - shares Iryna, mother of Maryna, a young girl with disability who lives in Popasna, a frontline town in eastern Ukraine. “And I was so happy to hear about the project by AMI-SHID organization providing the opportunity to children and youth like my daughter to take part in online classes, lessons, trainings and even festivals.”
Association of Women, youth, families with disabilities of Eastern Donbas – East (AMI-SHID), which helps children and youth with disabilities, supported by People in Need with financial assistance from the European Union started the project aimed at providing opportunities to children and youth with special needs to take active part in the process of online education, participate actively in online festivals and communicate with their peers on a regular basis online.
Within this project a team of professional educators specialized on special educational needs was created and capacitated. They increased their knowledge on how to conduct online teaching during COVID-19 pandemic, developed methodological materials for schools and online classes. Having on board a team of professionals experienced in working with children and youth with disabilities, the teachers and trainers started conducting online lessons on different subjects, trainings, master classes, art classes and even vocal singing and scenic art.
“I attend different classes, but my favorite ones are vocal singing and scenic art,” says Maryna. “I’m busy every day as we have diverse and interesting activities. Together we are drawing, learning languages, singing, preparing for different events, competitions and festivals. This is a great opportunity to communicate with others, share experience and progress.”
Thanks to this project, children living in rural areas in Donbas who didn’t have technical means to attend classes received this opportunity as they were provided with tablets and internet connection to join online education. Teachers and trainers involved in the project benefited as well as they received specialized professional trainings. More than 100 teachers and trainers from different parts of Ukraine expressed their interest and willingness to take part in this project.
“Our two daughters, Vlada and Hrystyna both enjoy online education,” says Olena who fled from the conflict with her husband and two daughters with disabilities from their home, which was not safe anymore, 7 years ago. “We live in the collective center which is in a nice and calm place in the forest, but there are not many opportunities for children with disabilities to engage with others and have some activities. Now, with the online classes, our daughters are busy, they connect with other children and enjoy joint work.”
Vlada and Hrystyna are talented sisters who take an active part in online classes. The favorite one for Vlada, who is a second-year University student, is vocal singing. She even learned to play the piano on her own and improved a lot during the pandemic. “Though playing piano is not an easy thing, I’ve managed to learn it. I love music and singing and I’m always looking forward to the classes on vocal singing,” says Vlada. Her sister Hrystyna, who is a schoolgirl, is fond of scenic art classes. The parents of the girls are happy to see the achievements of the daughters. “While we are at work Vlada and Hrystyna are on their own. We are very glad that now they have this opportunity to attend online classes. They are busy during the lessons and even after them as they prepare for the competitions and events. We see the progress and are happy about it,” shares Serhii, the father of Vlada and Hrystyna.
Association of Women, youth, families with disabilities of Eastern Donbas – East (AMI-SHID) is one of the civil society organizations supported by People in Need within EU COVID-19 Solidarity Programme for the Eastern Partnership. The aim of this EU funded project is to mitigate the adverse effects of COVID-19 and to contribute to longer-term socio-economic resilience of vulnerable groups in Eastern Europe. Under the implementation of People in Need (PIN), and in partnership with the Netherlands Helsinki Committee (NHC) and AFEW International (AFEW), the project aims to propose a set of interventions in several countries, including Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.