ESRACs: The key to learning of children with disabilities

CHILDREN with disabilities at Mitindo Primary School in Misungwi District had an untold joyful moment during a launch of the Education Support Resource and Assessment Centre (ESRAC) in the school premises.

During the event, they became able to convey their appreciation messages through songs, commending the government and stakeholders’ efforts on among others, setting an enabling environment that allows the access to their basic rights, including education in inclusive settings.

ESRAC renovation is part of a-three year (2022-2024) Disability Inclusive Development-Task Order 51 (DID-TO51) Project, which is jointly run by Sense International Tanzania, ADD International and Leonard Cheshire funded through Inclusive futures (promoting disability inclusion) by the UKAID.

DID-TO51 is implemented in Misungwi District Council of Mwanza region, Shinyanga Municipality and Shinyanga District Council in the Shinyanga region.

Mitindo ESRAC is for screening, identification and assessment of children with disabilities to determine the individual learning needs, proper placement and support in schools and other related services.

Identification and assessment of disabilities for children is aimed at, mostly, provision of special needs support to children (with disabilities), as well as enabling them to have their basic rights, including education, through inclusive education programmes.

Launching the ESRAC this week, Director of Special Education in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), Dr Margreth Matonya, who represented the Commissioner for Education (in MoEST), commented that: “Assessment of children means a lot, it goes beyond determining severity of disability, strengths of a child and individual learning needs suitable for each of the child.

All those feed in determining proper placement and development of appropriate educational programmes in schools and community support.” She further urged the parents of children with disabilities to make use of the newly renovated Mitindo ESRAC, affirming that experts will be available all the time, for assessment to determine the strength, learning needs and counselling services.

Again, she added, special needs education teachers will intensify home visits, on a weekly basis, to children with disabilities for knowledge sharing sessions with parents on how to best support their children while at home. Among other things, they will also do counselling to parents.

“The teachers will also be responsible to conduct home education programmes to children with severe disabilities, who are unable to attend class sessions”, said Ms Matonya.

She at the same time called upon collaborative efforts to protect children with disabilities from any type of violence, so as to set them free, safe and confident.

If the child is safe at home, then she/he can withstand and match with any environment, she said, revealing further that some findings show that children with disabilities have been experiencing various violence acts in their homes.

Village leaders should also intensify door-to-door identification visits, for rescue of indoor-locked children with disabilities. The Director also extended gratitude to other relevant government authorities, including the Ministry for Health, and encouraged them to fuel the pace of identification of the newborn babies with disabilities, soon after delivery in hospitals.

“This also serves in timely services provision to children with special needs,” she said.

The representative of the Special Needs Director from Presidents’ Office- Regional Administration and Local Government (PO RALG), Ms Anna Mark insisted that in collaboration with stakeholders, the government will make sure that no one is left behind in education.

The PO RALG has developed the guideline which directs all local government authorities on the right approaches in managing the ESRAC in their respective districts. The guideline will soon be released.

Sense International Tanzania Country Director, Ms Naomi Lugoe, revealed that Mitindo ESRAC was renovated at a tune of 35m/- in collaboration with Misungwi District Council and DID-TO51 project runners.

The project implementers also made available the two complete Assessment kits, worth over 96.4m/-, for all ESRACs in Mwanza and Shinyanga. The kits were handed to relevant District and Municipality, during Mitindo ESRAC launching ceremony.

Apart from ESRAC renovation the project conducted training to five multidisciplinary teams consisting of medical and social welfare specialties as well as from the field of visual, hearing and cognitive disabilities.

In addition to that, DIDTO51 built capacity of about 615 teachers on screening, identification, teaching and managing class with children with disabilities in inclusive setting The Director revealed further that trained teachers are skilled on teaching children with disabilities in inclusive settings with the use of pedagogical approaches that suits all children.

“And so the teachers can be able to tune the frequency by teaching the way the children learn as for the saying “If they can’t learn the way we teach, we teach the way they learn” by Professor O. Ivar Lovaas,” she said.

It was further noted that between January 2022 and December 2024, the TO51 project will directly support 1,880 children with disabilities in inclusive education.

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