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New partnership launched to support inclusive education for Filipino children living with disability

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Project ACHIEVE has been launched today to support children living with a disability in the Philippines.

ChildFund with the support of The Generations Foundation, Orro, and in partnership with Community’s Hope and Initiative for Lasting Development (CHILD Inc), is implementing the new program to promote inclusive and responsive education for Filipino children living with disability.

Filipino children face many challenges, further exacerbated by the difficulties this current pandemic brings. For young people with a disability, the situation is exceptionally difficult. They are among the most vulnerable to violence, abuse, exploitation, neglect, and discrimination.

Children living with disability are often robbed of their right to learn and denied the chance to participate in matters that most affect them.  In the Philippines, there are around five million school-aged young people living with a disability, but only one child with a disability among every 300 learners in school.

The shift to virtual learning, as part of the COVID-19 response implemented by the government, has exacerbated the challenges children with disability experience in accessing inclusive and responsive education.

Project ACHIEVE (Advancement of Children’s Inclusive Education through Virtual Engagement) will reduce the equity gap for non-grade children with disabilities, both those in school and those who have been unable to enrol in mainstream education in the Western Visayas Region of the Philippines.

The three-year project will ensure that young learners with disabilities have improved literacy, numeracy, and social-emotional learning skills. This will be realised through the following activities:

  • 300 school-age children with disabilities will be given access to appropriate content, platforms, and assistive devices for distance and blended learning.
  • 150 parents and caregivers will be equipped with the tools and knowledge needed to support their children’s continued learning.
  • 50 Special Education (SPED) teachers will be trained to deliver a curriculum designed to implement the Basic Education-Learning Continuity Plan, developed by the Department of Education (DepEd)to ensure children’s rights to education are upheld during the pandemic.
  • 5 ChildFund partner communities will take part in community-managed inclusive education programs and services.

The DepEd’s Basic Education Learning Continuity Plan, developed in response to the pandemic and resulting in a sudden shift in learning methodologies, recommends some adaptations for learners with disabilities, mainly in the form of learning materials and assistive devices.

“Project ACHIEVE is an opportunity to empower children with disabilities and break down barriers that prevent them from accessing equitable learning opportunities and participating in their communities.

“However, for a learning environment to be genuinely inclusive and responsive to their needs, there should be a deeper understanding of the obstacles to their participation,” said Dong Wana, ChildFund Philippines Director for Program and Sponsorship.

Mr Wana added: “With the support of CHILD Inc, our local partner in the Visayas, we can ensure that those children in our target areas, and who are living with disability, can have improved literacy, numeracy, and social-emotional learning skills.”

Ms Katharine Walters, Chief Impact Officer of The Generations Foundation said: “We know that children with disabilities, especially those who belong to marginalized groups due to economic, social, and cultural factors, can face significant barriers in accessing education.

“The pandemic has only exacerbated this inequality, which is why we are partnering with ChildFund on this whole-of-community program approach.”

Mr Rodd Cunico, Group CEO of Orro said: “With operations in the Philippines, as well as Australia, we are delighted to be able to support improved access to quality education for Filipino children with disabilities.”

He added: “As a digital infrastructure company, we see Project ACHIEVE’s use of appropriate and scalable technology platforms as a key contributor to inclusive education, both during the pandemic and beyond.”

ChildFund Philippines and The Generations Foundation, along with other advocates and champions, will continuously work to foster an environment where children living with disabilities have the support and tools they need to become lifelong learners and thrive.

ChildFund is on the ground responding to Super Typhoon Haiyan. More than 9 million people, including as many as 4.5 million children, have been impacted in the Philippines. Many are now struggling to survive without food, shelter and clean drinking water. At least 10,000 people are feared to have been killed, and thousands of survivors desperately require aid. Philippine President Benigno Aquino has declared a state of national calamity, and the UN has called for a “massive response” to the humanitarian disaster.

ChildFund is in Ormoc on Leyte Island and reports 90 per cent devastation. Erwin Galido, ChildFund’s emergency team leader, said, “There is loss of life and some looting. Food will run out here in three days. If aid doesn’t reach here very soon, people will become desperate and the situation will deteriorate.”

One of the most powerful storms on record to make landfall, Haiyan struck the coastal provinces of Leyte and Samar Nov. 8. It then headed west, sweeping through six central Philippines islands. ChildFund has finally reached communities cut off since the storm in Bacolod, Roxas City and Iloilo. Katherine Manik, ChildFund’s country director in the Philippines, said, “The full extent of the devastation is still unclear. There is great need in many communities. ChildFund’s short-term goal is to provide for the immediate needs of those impacted by the storm. We are distributing food, water and essential non-food items at evacuation camps and providing psychosocial support for children by creating Child-Centred Spaces, or safe havens, for children to gather. Children are clearly traumatised.”

ChildFund is currently focusing its response in Iloilo, Roxas, Negros Occidental and Ormoc, where we work with local partner organisations. Manik said, “With these local partners, ChildFund is in a strong position to respond to disasters. They help with the distribution of relief items for immediate needs, and they mobilise volunteers. They also support local coordination as they have strong relationships with local government units and are embedded in the local systems. Local partners are key in the emergency response.”

ChildFund has already committed funds, but much more is needed. ChildFund Australia and other members of the global ChildFund Alliance have set a goal of $10 million for response to immediate needs and long-term recovery. Funds will support those impacted, particularly children. To make a donation to assist those devastated by the typhoon, please visit: www.childfund.org.au/most-needed

ChildFund staff on the ground are available for interview.