Promoting disability-inclusion in Malawi’s early childhood development programs

Preparing children for formal education and social life—Early Childhood Development (ECD)—is a critical area of Malawi’s national development agenda, which addresses the challenge of the cycle of poverty and dependence when children are denied their right to education.

Disability and Education Specialist, Ms Betty Moses, is providing technical expertise to the Leave No Child Behind Project in two districts, Chikwawa and Ntcheu. The project is coordinated and led by Sightsavers, an international non-government organisation that supports the blind and advocates for disability rights.

Ms Moses graduated from the University of Newcastle, Australia, in 2010, with a Master of Special Education. During her studies, she learned about managing different types of disabilities in the education system. She also built advocacy, facilitation and stakeholder engagement skills, which she uses to facilitate learning and information sharing with other education and disability inclusion stakeholders.

Despite strides made in Malawi’s ECD programs, including the development of the National Strategic Plan for Early Childhood Development in Malawi (2009-2014), government and civil society organisations widely acknowledge that disability-inclusion is not being considered when implementing these programs. The ‘Leave No Child Behind Project is the first to promote disability-inclusion in ECD programs and encourage community members to embrace and support children with disabilities. Lack of awareness on the importance of ECD for all children, and the stigma towards disability, are some reasons children with disabilities are excluded from attending school. To address this, Ms Moses and her team have held sensitisation meetings with community stakeholders, including traditional leaders, ECD centre management committees and primary caregivers.

These interventions have yielded positive results, with more children with disabilities benefitting from the ‘Leave No Child Behind Project. At the start of the project, 36 children with disabilities benefited in Chikwawa and 29 in Ntcheu. These numbers have increased to 95 and 106 respectively.

Ms Moses has played an essential role in shaping and advancing the disability agenda across Malawi. She has worked for World Vision, an international non-government organisation, as a Disability Inclusion Project National Coordinator, overseeing disability inclusion implementation in five programs across Malawi.

On the impact she has made, Ms Moses said, ‘I feel very proud to be a life-changing catalyst in the rural areas of Malawi where lives of people, especially children, is hard.’

Ms Moses’ advocacy has not gone unnoticed by the government of Malawi and she has often been called upon to facilitate discussions to address disability-inclusion at the ECD stage in Malawi by the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare. She continues to contribute to the government’s mandate to give all children equal opportunities and access to quality Early Childhood Development in Malawi.

Ms Moses is a member of the Australia Awards Women in Leadership Network. The network is made up of more than 400 female award Alumni who focus on leading change in their spheres of influence, throughout the African continent. For more information on the network, click here.

Photo: Betty Moses during a disability inclusion training.

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