Pioneer School in Baidoa boasted staff, students need special needs
Although Baydhabo is one of Somalia’s largest cities, until recently it had no proper educational facility for disabled people. Now, thanks to the dedication of a small group of pioneering women, it now has a centre for more than 450 children with special needs who previously had nowhere to go. Some of the women behind the project are disabled.
Kaltum Mohamed Nur is one of the founders of the school. “We, the women of the city, stood up for the rights of disabled people. As some of us also have special needs we recognise full well the desperate need for such a centre,” she says.
“We pay from our own pockets for the rent of the school buildings and the bus fares for the children. But things are changing. Now the South West Ministry of Education helps pay for the teachers’ salaries and gives us other support and recognition. More and more people are contributing towards the running costs of the centre.”
Kaltum says a piece of land has now been donated upon which to build a school but that there is no money to pay for its construction. She explains how people with disabilities are the most vulnerable section of the population in Baydabo, partly due to prejudice and discrimination. She says the establishment of the school will help push for more rights to be given to the disabled.
One of the unique things about the school is that the principal and many of the teachers are disabled themselves. This helps the children significantly because they do not feel they are different and have role models they can aspire to.
Bishar Hasan Abdi is one of the school’s 453 students. He is about 15 years’ old and very happy that he now has a place to study and which has the materials he needs to help him learn.
“People like us don’t have chances like other people do. We don’t get special care and respect. Before, there was nowhere we could go to learn. Now I am confident that, as long as I continue to receive this education, I will succeed in life.”
“It makes a huge difference that some of the centre’s founders and staff have special needs like the students,” says the director of the school, Isse Abdi Salad.
“In other schools, many teachers are cruel to disabled children and make them feel isolated, different and with no hope for their futures. Here the students see their teachers as people like them and many dream to follow in their footsteps.”
The school is truly unique because unlike Somalia’s other centres for disabled children, the staff, administrators, founders and students are united by the fact that so many of them have special needs.