Changing negative perceptions to create inclusive societies

Prisca Mdachi

Prisca's daughter Avina was supported by our inclusive education project in Tanzania. We look at the impact the project has had both on Avina and how disability is viewed in her local community.

Prisca and her daughter Avina laughing together

Prisca Mdachi lives with her daughters Avina and Agnes in Fufu in the Chamwino District of Dodoma, Tanzania. 

Her daughter Avina has Spina Bifida. When she was young, she became partially paralysed in her legs and hands from surgical complications. And as a result, Avina spent most of her time indoors at home.

Prisca worked hard running a small restaurant to help provide income to support her family’s basic needs. But after Avina was born, she started losing business. The community around her refused to purchase food from her. They were prejudiced towards her just because she was a mother of a child with a disability. 

A new beginning

Leonard Cheshire’s Inclusive Education project identified Avina as a potential student who could benefit from the programme. The programme aims to support disabled children in attending mainstream schools. This also helps integrate them more into the community. 

The project team met with Avina’s family to discuss her needs. They spoke about how the project will support her in accessing education at a mainstream school. At first, it took some time for Avina’s mother to believe that Avina could go to school. The rest of the family were apprehensive too. It was unsurprising considering their experiences since Avina was born. Especially with how their community treated disability. After more discussions, Avina’s parents allowed her to enrol at a mainstream school. 

The project arranged for a custom wheelchair for Avina so she could use the chair as a desk. Teachers were also given inclusive education training. This helped them support Avina in class and teach other students about the importance of diversity and inclusion. Avina is now attending classes and has many new friends at her school.

Overcoming stigma in the community

However, helping the wider community overcome stigma around disability was still really important. So the project conducted several awareness raisings initiatives in the community about disability. They explained it is the right of all children to get equal access to education. This has changed community perception about children with disabilities and their opportunities to succeed. Many parents of children with disabilities now allow their children to go to mainstream schools. They are much more supportive with school requirements. 

The project also brought parents of children with disabilities together by forming Parent Support Groups (PSGs). The groups help address different issues. This includes the rights of children with disabilities, gender issues, lobbying and advocacy in the community. 

Since Avina has been enrolled in school, Prisca has been a critical member of Fufu PSG. Her contributions have been really valuable. In fact, during the selection of PSG leaders, the FUFU PSG even selected Prisca as the group leader.

Currently, the community have appointed Prisca to be a member of the local government committee. The community are now getting close to Prisca. They support her much more than before her family was introduced to the inclusive education project.

Avina’s mother is just one of many parents who has benefited from the inclusive education program's support. Inclusive education not only supports children with learning. It offers vital support to their families and communities too.

Together they can challenge stigma around disability.