Written by Abeera Ahmed
Photos credits: Shoukat Hayat, Humqadam/Mardan
Of the estimated 27 million Persons with Disability (PWDs) in Pakistan, according to UNESCO 1.4 million Children with Disabilities are not a part of the formal education system (Singal, 2015), mainly due to unavailability of proper schools’ infrastructure. Realising the importance of accessibility to school building for all, Humqadam-SCRP has taken key steps on provisioning modified schools’ infrastructure.
Government Higher Secondary School (GHSS) Gujar Garhi, District Mardan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was adopted by Humqadam-SCRP in October 2015. Provisioning of five new academic blocks, each equipped with wheelchair accessible ramp and toilet cubicle has made the school more inclusive and accessible. Altogether the school received 11 new classrooms and 11 student toilet cubicles.
16-year old boy Muhammad Umar is student of grade 10 at GHSS Gujar Garhi. His legs were paralyzed since birth. For most of his life, Umar has been limited in his educational aspirations due to his paralysis. Regular absenteeism was directly linked with his disability. He missed classes during the academic calendar as he found it difficult and embarrassing to reach his classroom and access toilet facility at school.
At the new school building, accessibility to the classrooms and toilet block has allowed Muhammad Umar to become a regular student. He no longer has to rely on others to move around. The ramps at the new academic block has allowed him to comfortably attend school. A new sense of hope is palpable in Umar. He is now enthusiastic to continue studies.
The community members and teachers have also demonstrated attitudinal change and are now cooperating on the themes of inclusive education.
Looking at positive attitudinal change in Umer and his strong interest to continue studies, the local community pitched in funds to buy him a special motorcycle for easier commute to the school.
Improved accessibility in schools is not just to facilitate children with disabilities, but it also brings awareness to the teachers, parents, and the community of their responsibility in providing inclusive education for children with disabilities.
Humqadam-SCRP is encouraging a holistic learning culture by providing mobility inclusive infrastructure in government schools. All schools constructed and/or rehabilitated by Humqadam-SCRP are mindfully designed with provision of ramps and wheelchair accessible toilet cubicles. As of December 2017, 475 schools have been completed and 384 active across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces.