How KOICA has brought new hope to disabled children

A HIGH turnout of children with disabilities at a new centre constructed at Buhongwa Primary School in Mwanza Region is now a reality, thanks to a Korean volunteer. 

The construction of the centre started after the arrival of Ms Suehyeon Kim, who is interested in teaching children with disabilities. 

Education is among the areas Korea, through its International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), has been supporting in various ways, including sending volunteers at various learning institutions across the world, including Tanzania. 

When Ms Kim arrived at her working station last year and found disabled children missing something as a result of being mixed with other schoolchildren, she consulted KOICA, which supported the construction of such a centre for disabled children. 

By the time she arrived at Buhongwa Primary School, the school had only five children with disabilities, but after the centre started operating, the number shot up as it currently accommodates 50 children with disabilities, according to her. 

“I’m passionate for serving disabled children and my first help is to offer them education in whatever means, including voluntary work. After I arrived at Buhongwa Primary School, I said there would be so many disabled children, who failed to go to school due to lack of supportive infrastructure,” she said, adding that: “My passion to serve disabled children made me extend my contract of staying here in Tanzania for the next two years. I was supposed to go back home this December.” 

She was expressing her feelings and passion for serving disabled children in Dar es Salaam last week during a KOICA meeting, which gathered all Korean volunteers working in Tanzania to discuss strengths and challenges facing them. Ms Kim noted that her prediction of the presence of many disabled children in homes turned out to be a reality because they kept on flocking to the centre, mostly because they were encouraged by friendly infrastructure, physical exercises in line with one’s type of disability, sports and dancing, among other things. 

Exercises in line with one’s disability activate one’s brain, relaxes organs and makes one physically fit to learn. 

The Korean volunteer added that, like any other children, disabled children also loved learning despite challenges facing them in learning compared to other children. 

To make them enjoy learning, Ms Kim proposed availability of special instructors to help disabled children and at the same time create an equitable proportion of teacher to pupil, which is one teacher to three pupils (1:3). 

“It is because it takes not less than six months for some children, especially those suffering from down syndrome-related problems to understand reading and writing skills. However, they are blessed in the sense that once the child understands something, it stays for a long time,” she noted, stressing that the centre was really in need of special teachers because there were only three of them, which did not meet the requirements of disabled children. 

At the same time, Ms Kim proposed the construction of dormitories since some pupils would stay at home after failing to walk long distances daily because of their disabilities. “Their parents also lack time to accompany them to and from school on a daily basis because of other duties.” 

The volunteer added that, there was also the need for expansion of the centre so as to accommodate all children who kept on emerging. During class time, children should also be in groups according to the nature and level of their disabilities so as to make it easy for teachers to serve the minors regarding that every type of disability has its special needs. 

On the other hand, Ms Kim urged members of the public to volunteer and construct similar centres at least one in every ward to enable all disabled children enjoy the right to education like other pupils. 

She praised the government of Tanzania for supporting disabled children at Buhongwa Centre, especially the provision of meals, which encouraged school children to attend classes. 

KOICA has been supporting various development projects, including volunteer work. Since its establishment in 2002, it has been playing a leading role in implementing Korea’s official development assistance to Tanzania by engaging in several socioeconomic development activities with priority on education, health, water, governance and rural development, implementing its programmes through bilateral and multilateral projects. 

KOICA focuses on sharing its unique and successful development experience by implementing a special training programme, which places great importance on human resource development, which is a key factor for sustainable development. More than 800 Tanzanians have participated in Koica training programmes, including the scholarship programme since 1991. 

Besides the training programme, through the World Friends Korea Programme (previously known as the Korea Overseas Volunteers Programme), KOICA has been dispatching volunteers in various fields such as medical doctors, nurses, medical technicians, science and information and communication technology (ICT) teachers, veterinarians and agriculturalists. Currently, over 60 volunteers are serving in Tanzania. 

The project for effective ICT education at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM)’s College of Engineering and Technology (CoET), the project for development of ground water in Dodoma and Shinyanga and the project for modernisation of farms and rehabilitation of irrigation in Morogoro and Zanzibar, the project for capacity building for diagnostic services improvement of health centres in Dar es Salaam and the project for capacity building for agro-processing in Dar es Salaam, Morogoro and Zanzibar. 

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