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
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid