News / Africa

Dakar School Integrates Special Needs Children Into Regular Classes

Xale Buur La school in Dakar
Xale Buur La school in Dakar

Multimedia

Audio
Amanda Fortier

In Dakar, a school exchange program attempts to break the stigma associated with mental deficiencies by bridging the gap between regular and special needs students.

On a Thursday morning at Xale Buur La, an elementary school in a low-income neighborhood of Dakar, some 50 or so young boys and girls sit cramped on small wooden benches scribbling adjectives on mini chalkboards.

The teacher calls on a tall boy from the back of the class to come up to the board. Babacar Fall breaks out into a huge smile and leaps over his classmates, many of them half his age, and strides to the front of the room.

Exchange program

Babacar, 18, is a student from the Aminata Mbaye Center - one of five schools for intellectually deficient children in Dakar. Twice a week he, along with eight of his classmates and his teacher, spend two hours at Xale Buur La. They come here to learn as part of an exchange program between the two schools - one that helps students with intellectual deficiencies integrate into regular classes.

It began nearly four years ago after the director at the Aminata Mbaye Center, Claude Sarr, saw a need to address an issue few were willing to openly talk about in Senegal.

Sarr says they have no idea how many children there are with mental deficiencies in Dakar and the surrounding area. Most parents keep their children at home and refuse to bring them to the hospitals to be checked.  These parents might know there is something wrong with their child, but they are often worried about how they will be treated in public and what effect this will have on their development.

'Mainstreaming'

Sarr says that a specialized school like Aminata Mbaye should not even exist. If a child lives in a family where everyone is 'normal' there is no reason to take this child and put them into a school where everyone is not normal.  The problem is that the community, teachers and students are not necessarily prepared to receive them.

The practice of ‘mainstreaming’, or mixing special needs students into regular classes, can be controversial.  Opponents often argue that special needs students require special care, monopolize the teacher’s time and slow the learning process for the so-called ‘normal’ kids.
When the mainstreaming program first began between Aminata Mbaye and Xale Buur La, there were some initial problems to work out.

Maxim Correa is a teacher at the Aminata Mbaye Center who also gives lessons every second week at Xale Buur La.  Correa was not trained specifically to teach intellectually deficient children and explains how he has had to adapt his teaching style and method to suit the needs of all the students.

Engaging students

Correa says that his own students have sporadic whims, which means he needs to know how to negotiate with them and to find more creative ways of getting them to follow a lesson. He may encourage them by promising a field trip or a chance to listen to music - something fun to incite them to learn.

Correa says it requires a lot of patience and perseverance on his part, because he often has to teach the same lesson three times to his students and needs to vary it every time.
The range in age of students from Aminata Mbaye who have been involved in this exchange program is anywhere between 14 to 34 years old. When they come into ‘regular’ classrooms, where the average age can be as young as 10, this can initially be quite frustrating for the older students.

Correa says, in the beginning, his students found it difficult to be with kids so much younger than them, but that now this is less of an issue because they know each other and do not necessarily see the age factor. But Correa says he still needs to make a special effort to include the special needs kids, because the majority are reticent by their very nature.

Ismaila Keita is a teacher trainer and educational consultant who makes regular visits to Xale Buur La to monitor the classes. He has been involved in Dakar’s school system for over 40 years.

Keita says if you do not mix the kids from Aminata Mbaye it just slows their development and makes the division between so-called “regular” and deficient children even greater. It is like when you are sick and you lock yourself in your room without seeing a doctor or getting help. You will never improve. We have to teach kids to come together rather than separating them.

Keita says that in Senegal there are many kids who start school late for all sorts of reasons, so it is not uncommon for older kids to be placed with younger kids in classrooms.  Although, in some cases, the older students get very frustrated and end up leaving, this is now happening a lot less. Keita says they are trying to get the kids to understand that school is actually an ongoing learning process and neither age nor intellectual ability should restrict who can be involved.

On the drive back to the Aminata Mbaye Center, Babacar climbs to the back of the bus. He says he has had a good morning. They are wise kids, he says with a smile.



You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid