Children in Moldova have celebrated the success of educational reforms which mean thousands of pupils with disabilities and special needs are now taught in mainstream schools.
‘Inclusive Education Weeks’ in two regions brought together children, with and without disabilities, parents, teachers, social workers, mayors and Rayon presidents. They have all played their parts over the last three years in the Republic of Moldova Inclusive Education programme – a successful programme which has attracted international attention. They shared their experiences of life in 12 ‘pilot’ schools – mainstream schools in Floresti and Ialoveni – which, with the help of Lumos Moldova, have welcomed children with disabilities and special education needs (SEN) who previously lived in residential special schools.
When Lumos started work in Moldova, there was no national system for inclusive education and a significant percentage of children in institutions were separated from their families and living in residential special schools, often far away from home. Lumos led on the development of national inclusive education policies – with training for thousands of professionals - and showed how a reformed system could work in schools in Floresti and Ialoveni. Since 2010, the number of children with disabilities separated from their families and living in residential special schools has reduced by 47%, while the number of children with disabilities educated in inclusive mainstream schools, alongside their non-disabled peers, has increased by 350% - or just over 3,240 children.
The Inclusive Education Week celebrations – in Ialoveni at the end of November and in Floresti in early December – featured dynamic and creative activities, with children at the heart of everything. There were demonstration lessons to show how class teachers and special support teachers work together to support children with SEN. Children participated in inclusive maths, art and speech therapy lessons, and produced posters and other materials which illustrated the importance of equality and diversity in the classroom.
They also organised ‘flash-mobs’ and round table events to spread the word about the values of inclusion and to show that every child deserves to study in a mainstream school. Children with and without disabilities – now classmates - came together to demonstrate the respect and joy generated from learning together.