“Children of all ages come to our schools.  It is much better if they come when they are very young.  Some parents come to us when other options have failed.  When they start late it is difficult for us to develop the child so that s/he is able to attend a government school and integrate socially.  Then we think of other options for the child – for self-employment or vocational training.  Something that would give them respect as members of society.

When we are rehabilitating a child with special needs we can’t do it alone.  The mother, child and the teacher must work together.  We always need the support of the mother and other family members.  It is mostly the mother who comes with the child to school.  Sometimes the father comes.  Whoever comes we get their cooperation.  There are certain things they have to continue at home.

– Kusum Wanniarachchi, Head – Education Unit

Navajeevana’s education unit, run from Tangalla, provides its services as a capacity development centre on disability inclusive Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) for teachers of mainstream ECCD centres. In addition, they run an ECCD centre exclusively for children with disability. The three outreach ECCD centres – Kolambageara (Ratnapura district),  Angunakolapelessa (Hambantota district) and Walasgala (Matara district) are run as “community-owned” centres, with greater support from parents and other stakeholders at all levels such as religious institutions providing space; children’s needs being addressed by the business community and divisional secretariats; armed forces getting involved in labour-intensive work, etc.

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Addressing the issue of exclusion of overage children from ECCD centres, another concept was tested by the field operations team which is called Capacity Building Centres, in collaboration with the Divisional Secretariats. These centres have ECCD services (offered by teachers whose fees are covered by the State and Navajeevana) for children with disability in the community; vocational training facility for school drop-outs and youth with disability; after-school support classes for children with disability already in mainstream schools and income generation activities for parents of children with disability. Presently, such centres are operating in the Hakmana, Kirinda and Weeraketiya DS divisions.

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