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Embracing all students in Indonesia

Labib graduating from elementary school
Labib graduating from elementary school
September 7, 2012

When 14-year-old Labib passed the sixth grade, it was a truly momentous occasion in the Rembang District of Indonesia. Not only had he already failed once but he also has autism and struggles both to learn at the same pace as other students and to control what his teachers call “hysterical outbursts” at small things, like the sound of the bell of a horse-pulled cart.

His father Raslim accredits Labib’s success to the inclusiveness of his school, which accommodates students with special needs, including blindness, deafness, learning disabilities, and autism, right alongside other students. When he was younger, Labib went to a school exclusively for children with special needs, one of only two in the entire district, but, in his father’s words, improved little there, “maybe because most of his friends were like him, so he was not challenged to progress.”

Promoting inclusive education

It was not just the principle of inclusion that made a difference: it was the skill of the teachers in treating all children equally. That skill came through the intervention of Plan, which, in order to facilitate the children with special needs, launched its two-year Promoting Inclusive Education Program in 2012. Because the two special needs schools in Rembang accommodate just 194 of the over 1,000 elementary school-aged children with disabilities in the district, most differently-abled children are denied their right to education. In fact, just one out of five complete their education through grade 6.

At Labib’s school, there are five teachers certified to instruct children with special needs. Though Labib had been at his school for four years, as 51-year-old Amaniyah, Labib’s classroom teacher, explained, they had just been shooting in the dark before the Plan-initiated training: “In the past, we did not have the theory to deal with a child like Labib. We just had love. We are so proud of him.”

The results of the training have been tremendous. Raslim explains: “This school treated my child equally. The students know how to deal with friends with special needs nicely. The teachers are very patient, even more patient than parents.” It was no surprise then, that Labib’s 31 classmates congratulate him, every single one also respects his need to keep a distance and not be embraced exuberantly.

Scaling up

Plan is hopeful that achievements like Labib’s are soon to be seen in other schools in Rembang. Using the density of differently-abled children as its criterion, Plan piloted its inclusion program in 12 schools attended by 800 students. In just the first six months of 2012, the program has conducted public awareness campaigns in the villages in which 10 of them are located. Plan’s goal is that the program will serve as a model for the government to take up in a bid to fulfill its millennium development goals

Learn more about Plan's involvement with education

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