Providing special needs education in Ethiopia

Providing special needs education in Ethiopia

“Thanks for penetrating the culture and creating an awareness in the community that families can send their children with special needs to school.”

What a compliment! This was from a teacher in a predominantly Muslim community in Ethiopia, thanking a Christian organization for helping children with special needs break through cultural barriers and go to school. 

Christian Horizons Ethiopia has been able to help 331 teachers receive training in Special Needs Education and open 110 Special Needs classes. As a result, 2,560 children with disabilities have been able to get an education. The statistics are impressive. The impact in the community is even more inspiring. 

One community member stated, “with education and training, we can overcome poverty and challenges.” They recognize that “disability does not mean inability”. 

The government of Ethiopia has declared that all of its school-aged children (including those with disabilities) are entitled to an education and is going to great lengths to help make that happen. However, they are still looking to work with organizations like Christian Horizons (which is already an “Essential Partner”) to accomplish it. 

Another community member shared a story that illustrated the continued need. He had heard about a boy who needed to walk to another town every day to get to the Special Needs class. His path required him to cross a river and, one day, the river was too deep and he drowned. 

“How do we feel about a child who wants to go to school but gets swept away?” this individual asked. I wonder how our actions would change if we asked ourselves the same question. 

Worldwide, approximately 10% of children with disabilities are able to attend school. In Oromia Region, Ethiopia, only three per cent of children with disabilities are in classes. That leaves 71,000 children still in need. According to the Education Bureau, even that three per cent would not be in school were it not for Christian Horizons’ presence in Ethiopia. 

Before the program was formalized, Christian Horizons helped individual children get an education. 

One such child was Muktar. Our help allowed him to have materials available in Braille or audio format. We assisted him through university and today he is a Crown Prosecutor at the Attorney General’s office in Addis Abiba. When all children have access to education, there is no telling what they can accomplish. 

When you act to stop a child from drowning on the way to school you birth a life full of dreams and possibilities.