Lesline and Maurice
How inclusive education is changing lives in Cameroon
Meet Maurice and Lesline from Cameroon. Like all kids, they have ambitions for their futures, and love socialising with their friends at school. But without the support of an inclusive education project, both of them would have struggled to gain not just an education, but also the chance for making friends and developing socially, which can be just as crucial in building confidence and self-esteem.
The Cameroon inclusive education project, which is funded by Irish Aid, aims to encourage an inclusive environment in the mainstream education system. As part of this, workshops are held on adapting the curriculum to meet differing needs, teachers are given training in pilot schools, and outreach activities are conducted to identify children with disabilities in the community who might be missing out on education.
The impact of being included can’t be overestimated. For Maurice, who was badly injured in a car accident in 2016 and has needed multiple surgeries, it means he can see a path to achieve his dream of becoming a doctor. “Even when he was in the hospital,” says Maurice’s mother Judith, “he was thrilled by the doctors. He was encouraged to go to school, because he wants to be a medical doctor. When he goes to hospital, they call him little doctor.”
Maurice is doing well at school. “I have many friends – we like to play games together [like] football,” he says. “Cristiano Ronaldo is my favourite football player and I watch Cameroon play football in the World Cup. I like school, English is my favourite subject and I want to be a doctor when I am older.”
For Lesline, who is eight years old and uses a wheelchair, having supportive friends has made it easier for her to join in socially. “My friends help me in school with my wheelchair,” she says. “I have some difficulties with my wheelchair, to come down here [to the school playground, which is at the bottom of a slope] is a bit difficult. This place is challenging and difficult to reach, but my friends push me slowly.”
As Lesline’s mother Josiane puts it: “She is happier, and she is very intelligent. As from what I see from her, I want her to be a lawyer, do law studies or maybe be a nurse because she is very diligent. Since she got enrolled in this school, I think she has equal opportunities as other children. Even in church she attempts to lead activities! Her confidence has grown; she is full of hopes now.”