To help children with disabilities access education in Syria, GPE and UNICEF supported non-formal education programs that helped reach hundreds of them. Ameer, who was born blind, shares his journey to education.
This story was originally published on UNICEF's website.
I used to feel different. I’d wonder why the children I play with could read and write while I couldn’t,” says Ameer, 15, from rural Homs, central Syria, reflecting on his childhood. Ameer, the second among five siblings, was born blind.
Ameer was eager to learn since an early age. Raised by a loving family, his parents tried to enroll him in school when he reached school age. With the ongoing conflict, there were delays and Ameer ended up starting school a year late.
In 2014, he started Grade 1 and was also registered at the Blind Care Association, a local NGO in the city.
At the center, Ameer learned the basics of Braille, a language used by blind and partially sighted people. It consists of combinations of raised dots.
All letters and numbers are represented by a combination so that books and other materials can be read through touch.
I realized I’m not as different from other children as I thought I was. I am equally capable of doing many things,” reflects Ameer about the time when he started learning.
The support from his family reignited his motivation and will to learn, and helped him overcome some of the challenges he faced.
Braille is not so easy, but I told myself I need to keep going,” explains Ameer. He also managed to build his self-confidence with his teachers’ help. “Ms. Eman, Ms. Sana and Ms. Zilal helped me to overcome my shyness,” he says.
To help children enroll in school, Blind Care Association, a UNICEF partner, provides them numeracy, literacy and remedial classes at its center after school hours. It also provides access to specialized resource rooms and support to do homework before the children are transported back to their homes. Ameer, who lives 20 kilometers away, is one of the children.
Education gives the children power and knowledge, and, in my view, all children need it to live and move forward,” says Ameer. “I am certain I can be a productive member of society, thanks to my education.
I am certain I can be a productive member of society, thanks to my education.Ameer, 15
Ameer wants to improve his language skills and dreams of becoming a French language teacher in the future. Currently in Grade 7, he continues to benefit from educational resources and support provided by the Blind Care Association and UNICEF. And he is at the top of his class at school.
Key findings from recent studies show that 65% of school-age children with disabilities have never attended school or any other form of education in Syria, attesting to the formidable barriers that children with disabilities face.
To address these barriers, GPE and UNICEF supported non-formal education programs, which helped reach 377 children with disabilities (209 girls and 168 boys) in Aleppo, Homs and Idle.
Additionally, learning centers were established that are accessible for children with disabilities, which will improve access to formal education while reducing overcrowding in classrooms.