story of Miraji, a standard one student at Mlabani Primary School in Morogoro enjoying attending school after securing a wheelchair

A CHILD THRIVES AT MLABANI PRIMARY SCHOOL AFTER THE COMMUNITY OVERCOMES BARRIERS TO INCLUSION

Tanzania has progressed a lot in the education sector; it is now expected to see a 6-year-old in class one, a rare case a decade ago. Unfortunately, this has not been the case for every Tanzanian child. Miraji Siraji Matwewe is one of the few who need inclusion. Miraji, a 10-year-old boy, is a standard one student at Mlabani Primary School in Ifakara Town Council. He could have been in standard four at that age, but he is thankful that he at least got to be enrolled in a regular school and can now read and write.

Teachers are now comfortable accommodating children like Miraji thanks to RTI International which implements USAID Jifunze Uelewe project, and IDYDC orientations on safe and inclusive schools. It was expected to see parents fail to enroll their children in school just because teachers did not know how to support these disabled children. The stigma in the community is also diminishing as communities are empowered through Parents Teachers Partnerships (PTP) and Community Education Mobilizers (CEMs) who also benefit from training supported by RTI International

Aika, who is Miraji’s mother, wishes the best for his son, but her situation is limited. Last year, she approached Mlabani, the primary school head teacher, and explained her concern that she has a disabled child, but she needs to carry him to school every day. The headteacher encouraged her to take heart and said he would see how he could support him.  This information was passed to the school management committee and PTP, who joined forces and managed to raise funds for a wheelchair. This was a big step in Miraji’s education; her mother was more determined that her child would surely get the education he deserved.

Miraji being escorted by his mother after classes. Photo credit: Gabo, head teacher/Jifunze Uelewe.

Miraji’s brother, who was in standard six last year, brought his younger brother to the school as it was easier to push the wheelchair. His mother only had the task to take him home as the timetable differed between the two brothers.

The acceptance and infrastructures like disabled lanes helped Miraji to feel accepted and learn at Mlabani Primary School. Due to his disability, he struggles to write as the performance shows he scored 16/50 in arithmetic and 10/50 in Writing in the last exam in November 2023. The anomaly is seen in reading as he scored 40/50 but this is no surprise to those who know Miraji. He likes to read books, and the book-borrowing activity has been helpful, but he is also an active member at the reading center, where children meet after classes for reading activities

It is not all well for Miraji; he still struggles to go the toilet as the infrastructure needs to be more inclusive, but he is optimistic everything will be well. For now, at least, he can access class and feel part of the class regardless of his disability.

Miraji at the class. Photo credit: Gabo, head teacher/Jifunze Uelewe.
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