Why inclusive learning environments are important

Esther and Efita

Esther Banda is a primary school teacher in the Eastern Province of Zambia. She teaches at one of the schools that's part of our Inclusive Education project and took part in inclusive teacher training in May 2019.

Esther standing next to Efita while he writes on a blackboard

The inclusive education project was introduced at Esther's school in January 2019. Around the same time. Esther had started teaching Efita. Efita is a 10-year-old learner with epilepsy and other developmental impairments.

It was Esther’s first time teaching a student with a disability, and it was the first time that Efita had attended mainstream school. At first, Esther did not know how to include Efita in classroom activities. She was sure that Efita would not benefit from her class. Efita, who had never been to school before, showed signs of being afraid and disinterested in school. He was constantly isolated from others.

Becoming more inclusive

However, after the teacher training, Esther is now better equipped to deliver lessons inclusively. She is now confident that Efita will be learning well with others. She has started implementing some of the inclusive approaches that she learned. This includes arranging the classroom into groups so that children learn from each other.

She’s also been using different chalk colours to write on the board. This helps accommodate other learners with visual impairments. Her method of delivering lessons is no longer her original lecture style. It is now more learner-focused. She allows for more discussion. And she uses learning aids such as diagrams as a way of simplifying the content.

Increased confidence and performance

The changes in the teaching approach have helped improve Efita’s performance in class. He now mingles with his classmates and has made many friends. At the moment, he enjoys basic tracing activities and playing a role in classroom exercises. He also enjoys being clapped by other children when he answers questions correctly in class. As a result, his confidence and interest in school have increased a lot.

These milestones made with Efita have convinced Esther that inclusive education works. She says: “I now know that children with impairments are like other children. They have the right to education and have the ability to learn like other children”.

Over the next three years, Leonard Cheshire expects to enrol 750 children with disabilities in five districts in the Eastern Province of Zambia. In the first year, 421 children have been enrolled.