In our own celebration for International Day of Education we are celebrating the learning heroes of the pandemic!

United Nations' (UN) International Day of Education is marked each year; for 2021 it will be marked on 25 January. 

The theme proclaimed by UNESCO is “Recover and Revitalize Education for the COVID-19 Generation”.

'Now is the time to power education by stepping up collaboration and international solidarity to place education and lifelong learning at the centre of the recovery.'

Georgian Down Syndrome Association (GDSA)

GDSA with the support of the European Foundation has presented a new program "7+", which involves the introduction of methodological approaches to the development of children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities in Georgia.

The program "7+" aims to promote the development and education of adolescents with Down Syndrome (7 to 18 years), establishing a worthy and equal member in society. The project methodology is developed based on modern approaches and international best practices using both practical and theoretical training.

The Covid-19 pandemic has posed great challenges to the education system. Experience has shown that online learning can not replace the real learning process.

"7+" program has developed an open space teaching format during the pandemic and is still successfully following this format. Specialists have selected parks and open spaces in Tbilisi, where there are no crowds and the risk of infection is minimized. Except for particularly cold and windy weather, virtually none of the lessons have been canceled. The children cheerfully met this initiative and happily engaged with the specialists in the various activities selected for them.

Working in such a mode requires special efforts of specialists, but the result is undoubtedly justified. And most importantly - in the conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic, by following all the recommended rules, children have the opportunity to maintain real relationships in the real world, receive continuous service and improve the skills that are important and necessary for them.

Morainbow Down Syndrome Foundation (MDSF), Nigeria

"During the Lockdown, it was not an easy task getting our learners to learn from home but with time, virtual learning kicked off full-time with different instructors joining in. The pandemic was an eye opener and a lot of parents were much more involved with their children making our partnership productive as we were able to measure and record impact the foundation's programs had on their children.

It was an amazing experience as our special learners who, prior to that time had to stop physical learning, were excited to be part of a learning experience once again. Though virtually, they were able to connect with their class mates and friends through platforms that support learning such as Google classroom, Zoom and Whatsapp. We had virtual classes where students learnt to draw, read, exercise etc. and in a nutshell, they began to emerge. Though not all students were able to achieve progress in some areas but merely seeing their friends and teachers online was always a refreshing moment." - Tola Makinde, Executive Director of Morainbow Foundation

MDSF have also developed an early intervention kit designed to help learners to have fun while learning in various areas of development. The kits includes games and activities as well as instructional materials to guide parents to use the kit at home.

Myanmar Down Syndrome Association (MDSA), Myanmar

"The pandemic stopped everything!"

However, MDSA have tried their best to continue the education for learners with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.

MDSA's education team have been studying the International Guidelines for the Education of Learners with Down Syndrome and working on translating the Guidelines into Burmese. The team have a weekly 'Knowledge Sharing' session to discuss the contents of the Guidelines and how they might achieve education reform in Myanmar.

MDSA have supported families to access digital learning using Zoom. The online classes include information about social inclusion and gender, Organisational development, facilitation skills, inclusive education for people with Down syndrome.

MDSA's members, have not stopped during the pandemic; they have been learning to produce hand sanitiser. They have also accessed classes to learn how to vote online so that they could vote in the Myanmar 2020 election.

MDSA have also been advocating for Disability Registered cards so that people with Down syndrome can access oppourtunities, including inclusive education in the formal education system of Myanmar.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, MDSA have used this time effectively by accessing online platforms to learn. They have developed some great learning opportunities for their team and members and have also worked very hard to create better educational opportunities for their members with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities.

Rwanda Down Syndrome Organization (RDSO), Rwanda

Since May 2020, due to the pandemic, the government of Rwanda stopped education in schools and encouraged schools to conduct online education. However, there were no online lessons for children with additional educational needs.

RDSO decided to open services to keep parents and children with Down syndrome busy. The services offered were Speech Therapy and Occupational Therapy.

In October 2020, RDSO organised COVID-19 awareness sessions for people with Down Syndrome. The sessions were attended by young adults with Down syndrome, their parents and local authorities.

In December RDSO created a Self-Advocacy group for people with Down Syndrome.

Down Syndrome Foundation Nigeria (DSFN)

"It is important to me is to see people with Down syndrome live meaningful lives irrespective of how the society perceive and treat them.

It is also important to advocate for people with disabilities generally; inter-phase between people with Down syndrome and the stakeholders seeing that every person with disabilities is included.

One of the learning opportunities that we have created for our members is a training salon where they can learn a skill and also be employed." - Rose Mordi, President (DSFN)

Lake Farm Centre (LFC), South Africa

Linda Cloerec Rankin introduced the Read-Teach-Read (RTR) literacy project to LFC to help students learn to read.

Linda and her colleague Len Fourie have been preparing workshops for the students. Thanks to these sessions the students have a new found confidence and look forward to their lessons with great enthusiasm. This sparked an interest in other students who have joined the classes too so now LFC have a whole building allocated for the workshops.

"Len is passionate and has the utmost patience and sense of humour (making lessons fun) for the residents. He gained their confidence and soon the students were progressing and enjoying their new, albeit simple reading and writing classes." - Marjorie Ann Moore

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