Speaking with signs to ensure no one is left behind in El Geneina, West DarfurDec 28, 2017
“Education is the key to success and development. You see me sitting in my wheelchair and you may think I need help but No! I am educated, I speak Arabic and English and now I speak sign language! I don’t need help! I can help others and that is what I am going to do” says a determined Said Omer. In his early 30s, Omer, a resident of Geneina, decided to learn sign language as part of the training provided by the Accelerated Learning Programme (ALP). Omer continues “We were offered a wide range of skills to choose from, but I decided that I want to learn sign language. There are many children who are hearing impaired because of which they are deprived from attending school”. A report jointly prepared by UNICEF and Sudanese Ministry of Education estimates that 49% of out of school children in Sudan are children with disabilities. He says, “If children and youth with disabilities do not go to school, they won’t be able to work or support themselves. They will become a burden, and won’t be able to contribute in the development of their lives, their hometowns or the country”
Violent conflicts, displacement and loss of livelihoods in Darfur has driven thousands of children and adolescents out of school. The report estimates that almost 40% of children and adolescents at school age are out of school in Darfur. It’s also reported that 75% of out of school children and adolescents, especially in urban settings, are supporting themselves and families by enrolling into the low waged labour market due to their illiteracy and lack of essential skills.
Geneina city, the capital of West Darfur State, according to OCHA reports is the refuge of nearly 25,000 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) who access the same infrastructure & services with 170,000 residents of the city putting more pressure on its public services thereby causing schools to be unable to accommodate the overwhelming numbers of children and increasing the numbers of children and adolescents to be out of school. It is reported that 45.7% of children in West Darfur State alone, are out of school.
UNDP in collaboration with UNICEF, through the joint project ALP, supports out of school adolescents to attain literacy and numeracy as well as necessary economic and vocational trainings to increase their employability to improve livelihoods and ensure a productive and stable future. UNDP with the local partner, Believe In Humanitarian Action, conducts vocational trainings at Geneina Vocational School where 200 young boys and girls obtain literacy and numeracy while learning a set of vocational skills according to their choice. Through the ALP, young learners can choose to learn range of skills on - tailoring, masonry, general electricity, blacksmithing, automotive maintenance and repairing.
Omer, himself a differently abled youth and his 20 mates from the ALP sign language training class, believe that creating inclusive educational environment will change the lives of children with disabilities and prepare them to become a productive member of the society. He observes “One would see kids and young boys in the market, pushing wheelbarrows, shining shoes or wandering aimlessly, instead of being at school or at least having a job that pays. This situation should not continue. We need every child, every boy, every girl in Darfur to go to school.” Says Omer with a tone of determination. “I want to see these young boys and girls change their lives for better and I am determined that hereafter with my sign language skills I can be an agent of that change. I will do my best teaching those children with disabilities so no one is left behind”.
ALP is one of the 12 Foundational and Short Term (FaST) projects that heralds the goals of Darfur Development Strategy (DDS) targeting 25,000 out of school children, 6,000 young school drop-outs and 420 teachers in the five states of Darfur. ALP and all FaST activities are funded by the United Nations Fund for Recovery, Reconstruction, and Development in Darfur (UNDF) with the support of Qatar Fund For Development (QFFD).