Social inclusion programme to benefit 2,400 children with intellectual disabilities

TANZANIA: ABOUT 2,400 children with intellectual disabilities from eight regions countrywide are expected to benefit from an ambitious one-year plan, seeking to leave no one behind in social inclusion, thanks to Special Olympics Tanzania (SOT).

SOT has launched the programme dubbed ‘The Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools (SO UCS) which seeks to promote social inclusion through intentionally planned and implemented activities affecting systems-wide change.

The official launching of the programme was graced by Deputy Director in the President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG), Mr Ernest Hinju.

In 2020, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, granted Special Olympics a transformational US Dollars 25 million gift to establish the Abu Dhabi-based Special Olympics Global Centre for Inclusion in Education and the growth and development of Unified Champions School (UCS).

In Tanzania the programme now goes for phase three after the successful first and second phases of the project which kicked off in 1986 in three regions. So far, the project is currently being implemented in 30 regions in Tanzania, according to SOT National Coordinator, Charles Rays.

“Special Olympics came up with a plan dubbed Play Unified, Learn Unified whereas in 2019 during the second phase that was funded by Stavros Niarchos Foundation based in Greece, about 14 countries were engaged in the programme including Tanzania,’’ noted Mr Rays.

According to him, because of efficiency that was exhibited during the programme, the leadership of Special Olympics Africa and International gave a greenlight to SOT to continue with another phase that will be implemented for one year under the name of UCS.

During phase three, he added, about eight regions will be covered. They include Kagera, Mara, Pemba, Rukwa, Ruvuma, Singida, Songwe and Tabora. Also, 2,400 children with intellectual disabilities and another 1,600 mentally fit children will benefit from the programme.

“Our target is to ensure that the programme remains sustainable even after funding from Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan (MBZ) phase out in 2025,’’ he added.

Speaking at the launching event in the country’s capital, Dodoma, Special Olympics Africa, Senior Manager, Youth Engagement, Ngawa Mumba noted that despite the progress, globally, almost 200 million individuals with Intellectual Disabilities still encounter stigma, exclusion, and discrimination and that this pressing worldwide issue affects developed and developing countries, as many lack access to healthcare, social security, education, and fundamental human rights.

“Our goal is as essential today as it was when the Movement was established in 1968. Special Olympics strives to create a better world by fostering the acceptance and inclusion of all people,’’ added Ms Mumba.

According to her, SOT has been working with the movement in ensuring that they promote social change in schools and bring about inclusion amongst students, be it in primary secondary or tertiary education and that Special Olympics Africa has seen great potential in the leadership of SOT to carry out the missions and vision of Special Olympics.

At the event, SOT Vice-Chairperson Muharam Mchume said: “This is a very important day for us and it shows how Tanzania is well planned to helping children with intellectual disability.’’

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