I haven’t really talked about the school latrines Global Care funded. It hasn’t been a straightforward project! Constructors didn’t understand the specification for accessible latrines, and the first latrine wasn’t really what was expected. However, with practice they got better at understanding and following instructions and the third accessible latrine is pretty good… apart from the back-to-front handrails. Moses has some latrine modifications to sort out, but moving and installing handrails shouldn’t be too difficult or too expensive (see how confident we’re being…). Building latrines at schools has had unexpected positive consequences. One disabled girl no longer pays fees ‘as she is responsible for the new school toilets.’ At another school, nursery children used to share the church latrine – a very old, basic structure. Now the nursery has their own toilet block with one stall with handrails, and the church is allowed to use one latrine on Sundays – they’re very happy.
Latrines and latrine modifications enabled disabled children to access school, or use school latrines independently, but we are stunned by the results of much cheaper interventions. Through this project, 13 children attend school regularly and punctually. All these children have improved mobility – children who hardly walked in March now play football or join in PE and run and play happily with their classmates. All the children have settled well at school and have friends and join in activities. Only one child received discrimination – from a teacher. Moses, Penlope and the school worked together to resolve the matter. The child is now loved and respected. It’s been fantastic to have the opportunity to meet all the children and we’re humbled and excited by everything the team have achieved. For some children, simply providing a boda taxi to school has brought about all these positive outcomes.
Both this project and the Disability Support Groups in Soroti are changing disabled children’s lives for the better – in very different ways. We need solutions for supporting disabled children that are appropriate for a specific locality and culture. The geography of this area is a huge factor for any project. Sparsely populated areas separated by miles of hills and rough tracks aren’t conducive to a support group. Today we met a Disabled People’s representative on the local district council. He asked why we hadn’t built a dormitory for disabled children at a school, and we explained that Global Care decided it was much better to keep families together and not take the disabled children away or risk institutionalising them. He was very happy with the decision and with the results of the project. I’m very glad not to be someone who takes responsibility for these kinds of decisions!
Ultimately, these projects need to become sustainable – not to rely on continued donor support. That’s the biggest challenge. Apparently in Rukungiri, pigs are the animal of choice for income generating, in Soroti it’s goats. Even the questions of sustainability must be locally appropriate. We must do something for these children, it would break your heart to hear the stories and visit the homes of disabled children who don’t benefit from this kind of project. I hope the blog has stimulated you to think about disability and about disabled children in countries without free health and social care, real inclusive education and special needs teachers, properly accessible buildings and schools, and where poverty and disability together drastically reduce your chances of reaching adulthood. Its tough but true that life here for many is a struggle, and particularly for disabled children. So, thanks for joining me and spare a thought and a prayer for all the children you’ve met in my blog in the last 2 weeks, and for the teams in Soroti and Rukungiri and their incredible work to improve the lives of disabled children. Thank you Global Care, for caring about these children, and giving them hope for the future.