Twenty-two children with severe and complex disabilities from the Ialoveni region of Moldova will now learn alongside their peers in a mainstream school. Fifteen of these children, aged between 6 and 16 years old, will be attending school and experiencing the joy of interacting with their peers for the first time in their life.
This change has been made possible thanks to a new Inclusive Education Unit (IEU) - created within the “Petre Ştefănucă” High School in Ialoveni city and unique to the education system of the Republic of Moldova. The IEU opened its doors to pupils on September 1, 2016, and today children, parents, teaching staff, central and local public authorities, and national NGOs took part in a festive inauguration celebration.
The Unit’s team of specialists - including a coordinator, five special education teachers, one psychologist, a speech therapist, two kineto-therapists, four personal assistants, and two drivers - offer daily support to the children, adapting their services to the needs and potential of each child.
The new service has several rooms equipped with the technology to facilitate learning for children with severe disabilities. The Unit is fully accessible, and aims to encourage positive results in children previously deprived of education with a friendly atmosphere.
Some pupils with disabilities attend classes inside the High School building, while others whose disabilities make it harder for them to travel study within the Unit, which is equipped with adjustable desks and chairs. In the multifunctional room, children receive individual support with their learning, with an interactive whiteboard, play therapy and activities to develop their creativity. The kineto-therapists also provide children with tailored programmes of physical rehabilitation, including hydrotherapy. A sensory room stimulates sight, hearing and the sense of touch in children with disabilities.
Since the Unit opened at the beginning of the school year in September, specialists and parents have noticed much progress in the children’s communication and behaviour, as well as their level of comprehension. Most children’s ability to focus has increased, as has their willingness to play with other children. Children who did not know to write or read are now able to fulfil simple tasks and answer questions, while others with profound speech difficulties are now more confident and interact much more easily with those around them. Volunteer pupils from the High School are promoting the inclusion of their new schoolmates by organising after-school activities for them.
The IEU has been created by the Ialoveni County Council and Lumos, and some of the building and resourcing of the Unit has been generously funded through online donations from Lumos supporters from around the world. Harry Potter actor Warwick Davis also visited the Unit this summer to find out more about the situation of children with disabilities in Moldova - you can watch his journey here.
This new Inclusive Education Unit represents a huge step forward for inclusive education in Moldova. It provides a new model of inclusion, which could inspire other similar services within the country and ensure that all children have access to the education they need - within their local communities.