On a chilly, windy day in February I entered the premises of Ferrando Speech and Hearing Centre in Barapani which is approximately 45 mins away from Shillong, a hill station in India’s remote North East. The centre was initially set up as a school for children with hearing and speech impairments but in recent times has worked towards enrolling children without disabilities to promote holistic inclusion and equal education for all. Through the CBM Australia funded Regional Action for Inclusive Education in the North East (RAISE) project, Ferrando is one of 16 partners working towards enrolment, retention and mainstreaming of children with disabilities into educational facilities and local government schools and improving the quality of education for all children across 5 states in the North East.
The core tenet of this project is to skill up 28 key teachers with the techniques required to provide inclusive education to children of differing learning abilities. A main activity revolves around developing relevant Teacher Learning Materials (TLMs) allowing for adapted learning approaches and models where children with disabilities are enabled to learn alongside their peers.
During the visit I met with Jacinta and Joyshree who are the 2 key teachers appointed by Ferrando to take part in the RAISE Project. I was instantly taken aback by the enthusiasm of both these young women as they recounted their motivation and willingness to take part in the project. Both women explained that through the key teachers training they were learning about a multi disciplinary approach towards disability inclusion in the education context. They will then be responsible for sharing this knowledge with other teachers within their institution, developing adapted teaching & learning modules and approaching SSA (local government) teachers to promote the usage of these.
My appreciation of these key teachers was compounded as Joyshree herself is speech and hearing impaired and explained that she was once a student at Ferrando. After growing up in Imphal, the capital of Manipur within the North East region, Joyshree attended the institute who at the time was one of the only schools offering educational opportunities for children with speech and hearing impairments. She cited her experience within the institute during her education and the lack of services available for children with disabilities within the sector as being her source of inspiration for becoming a teacher. According to Joyshree, she feels ‘an obligation’ to educate others who may have missed out on educational opportunities solely due to their impairments.
When I asked Joyshree of what her end goal was for participation within the project she replied that she hopes not only for all children with disabilities to access to quality education, but also that all mainstream teachers are equipped with the skills to teach these children in an inclusive setting.
**Content © CBM Australia