We Ring the Bell

21 June 2018


Every March, Liliane foundation strategic partners organise the campaign “We Ring the Bell” in 30 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America in which children with disabilities speak up for their right to education. This year is no difference, in Sierra Leone the camapign was staged on 9 May 2018 due to the general ellections. Teachers, parents and pupils from 15 primary and secondary schools marched in the street of Freetown to draw the attention of government on its obligation to ensure that the free education policy is inclusive for children with disabilities.

Throughout the month, OneFamilyPeople team, partners and youngsters with disabilities participated in  a number of radio programs to discuss critical barriers in the schooling of children with disabilities and advocate for real improvements so that they can feel welcomed at school. 

No Child Left Behind

In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for a better world by 2030 with the fundamental principle to include children with disabilities who did not benefit from the Millennium targets.

Even though more and more children are going to school across the world, this is not the case for children with disabilities particularly in Sierra Leone. On resent estimates, 33 million children with disabilities worldwide are out of school. This is a problem, that is why the Dutch Liliane Foundation initiated We Ring the Bell Campaign, empowering OneFamilyPeople and partners to engage policymakers and those who have the power to remove the barriers preventing children with disabilities from attending school. So that no child with a disability is  left behind.

We believe that schools need to become more accessible to children with disabilities.  Teachers and teaching materials should meet the needs of all learners.

We are encouraging those who believe that children with disabilites have a right to a better education take  action so that more people become aware that education is a fundamental human right of every child including children with disabilities.

One Minute of Noise

After marching in the street of Freetown, school children with and without disabilities, parents, teachers and partner organizations converged at Constance Cummings School where they made noise for one minute and said “all children are welcome to school including children with disabilities”

The Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, Hon. Alpha Timbo welcomed the children in the school and signed the 10 action points of “ Welcome-to-School” – Manifesto. 

While commending OneFamilyPeople and partners for organizing the campaign, he pledged his support to ensure systematic implemention of the 10 action points. He said ring the bell campaign is his first official function after taken oath of office  and it will be remembered.

The minister said that the free quality education includes persons with disabilities and encouraged organizations working on disability to engage his ministry to mainstream disability issues in the development of education policies - focusing on accessibility, acceptance and adaptation as preconditions for every child to go to school.

“We are very mindful of the fact that for any country to develop their human capital has to be improved first and education is the key”. “the deputy director of OneFamilyPeople informed me that there are limited number of special schools and sign interpreters in the country which call for increase in special training. I want to assure you that the school curriculum is going to be revisited to suit learners with disabilities”.

He asked participants to stand up and make louder noise for His excellency president Maada Bio to hear and pay attention to the special needs of children with disabilities.

Dr. Abdulay, Chairman of the Freetown Cheshire Home who chaired the event said in his opening that the objectives of the campaign is to remove all barriers to education to accommodate learners with disabilities. “Education should be free and accessible for all and we have the minister of primary and secondary education here today, so we are pleading to the government through him to understand the Persons with Disabilities Act to be able to allow the act to be implemented to the fullest”. He added that the free primary and secondary education alone is not sufficient, there should be free education at all levels including university and vocational. He ended by inviting participants to shout with him the slogan “all children are welcome to school”.

Her Choice Ambassador, Karamo Kabba pledged his support to government’s free quality education program. He said that all persons are created equal  and  persons with disabilities have special abilities that our society need today. “It’s high time to invest in nurturing the skills of children with disabilities enabling them to be fully part of society without any form of discrimination”. “I want to pronounce today that there should be no discrimination against children with disabilities anywhere in the world, in the class room, in government and in society at large” he added

“We are here today ‘to ring the bell’ in solidarity with children with disabilities all over the world who are denied the right to education and demand access to education” said Hadiatou Diallo, Deputy Director, OneFamilypeople. “Education is absolutely key, without education, no nation can develop and the SDGs cannot be achieved” she added.

While commending government for making education a priority in the new direction agenda, she urged government to invest in physical adaptation of classrooms, toilets and playgrounds to accommodate wheelchair users;  support the increase in sign language teacher training and provide special needs teaching and learning materials such as braille and sign language.  

The Director of Kids Advocacy Network Edmond Alim B.Fornah told the minister that discrimination against children with disabilities in education can no longer be tolerated. “Education is a human rights and the only qualification is to be human. Therefore all children should have access to education including children with disabilities, no child should be left behind” he said.  

The entrime president of Children’s Forum Network said “we the children of this great nation, we need safe, inclusive and accessible education so that we can reach our full potential”.  He called on government to build special schools to prepare children with disabilities for inclusive education and provide social protection for parent of children with multiple or severe disability who need constant care.

Also in town visiting Sierra Leone was Mr. Mory Kagbo from UNDP Guinea. In his statement he highlighted UNDP commitment to support the government of Sierra Leone and Guinea to jointly address disability issues in both countries through South-South cooperation.

“I feel very proud and excited to see children with disabilities raise their voice for change.  After the march people in my community recognised me as a role model. I  know we have a long way to go before education becomes accessible to all children with disabilities but at least now we can share our views.”says Nacel Johnson.

“I was moved by my peers who joined us in big numbers to ring the bell and demand access to education for all children with disabilities. The campaign has changed how people think about us, but we can do more. We are planning to raise awareness about stigma and discrimination children with disabilities experience in school and educate people on disability rights so that our voice can be heard”. says Kadiatu Kamara.

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