When ‘Special Needs’ doesn’t really mean ‘special’

Elspeth Dugdale | February 1, 2022

When ‘Special Needs’ doesn’t really mean ‘special’
Lost childhoods?

According to Charles, ‘everyone has a story’ and ‘every story deserves to be heard’, ie. although it may not be possible to solve every problem or life trauma, both talking and listening can play a huge part on the way to recovery. But what if communication is an issue? What if talking and listening are neither easy nor possible?  

 

Disabled young people & children are a particularly marginalised group in Uganda. They are often seen as less important & of less ‘value’, especially when it comes to education. For them, it is much harder to tell your story if you can’t communicate easily. The individual is effectively silenced – none more so than disabled girls, who are even more vulnerable and often, sadly, seen as ‘fair game'.

Last week four difficult and distressing stories crossed my path, but none of them should be recounted here, in a public setting. All four girls had been identified as ‘special needs’, all have grown up locally, all known to us by name, all should have been in school. All vibrant & fun young women, with huge potential and a great zest for life, despite their physical challenges. Needless to say, all four life-changing events have redirected their life stories. However, with the help of interpreters & counsellors, all the stories should be heard - at some point.

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Juggling childcare and schoolwork

Annett at The Rock, the matrons at WTA and Deborah in the Connect Education Centre have and continue to counsel and help as many of these vulnerable girls as they can - but sometimes the numbers are just a bit overwhelming. This is an area of need that ServeDirect is looking to further help with.

With an additional estimated extra 30,000 teenage pregnancies per month in Uganda during lockdown, the country’s ‘Shadow Crisis’ (see November news) will continue for at least another generation; inevitably, disabled girls are a part of this sobering statistic.

In fact, it is such a significant and public crisis, that this year, the government has instructed schools (both secondary and primary ….) to allow pregnant students back into school and to make extra provision for them. Much compassion and wisdom will be needed.