Tanzania: Mwanangu Special School
A new classroom for children with disabilities in Vikindu
The pupils of the inclusive Mwanangu Special School are currently divided into four classrooms. One playgroup classroom, one kindergarten classroom, one first grade classroom and one second grade classroom. Next year (2023), some of the students will move to the third grade. Unfortunately, there is no classroom for them yet. Therefore, the association is asking for donations and help to finance the construction of a classroom for the third class. Since some of the children with disabilities have special needs, the room must meet special requirements. For example, it must have a barrier-free toilet, a special lamp and a shelf for walking aids. The costs for the construction of the new classroom, including furnishing, amount to a total of 15,000 euros.
About the project:
The Mwanangu Inclusive Community is an initiative that was born out of the desire to support children with special needs who had no access to education. Founded by Mwanangu Development Tanzania (previously known as Friends of Children with Cancer Tanzania FOCC) in April 2017, their vision is to see a generation where all children are given equal opportunity in the health and education sector in Tanzania. The integrative school with Waldorf elements cares for children with disabilities, particularly vulnerable children from kindergarten to primary school, as well as non-disabled children, with 16 staff members. Today, 43 children, 24 with special needs and 19 without special needs, attend the school.
The children at the school who have special needs have, for example, a split spine (Spina Bifida), hydrocephalus (a pathological widening of the spaces in the brain that are filled with cerebrospinal fluid), cerebral palsy (movement disorders and muscle stiffness) or autism.
There is also a biodynamic farming project at the school. Vegetables, fruits and cereals are grown and there are bees. The harvest feeds the children, the staff and the teachers. The surplus is sold at the village market to generate income. There are also cows, goats and chickens.
The project is particularly important, as there are unfortunately only a limited number of inclusive early childhood development and primary schools in the country. The resulting long distances and lack of accessibility of such schools causes high educational costs for the parents of children with disabilities.
Another challenge is that born or acquired hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida, birth defects in Tanzania is believed to be a curse and burden to the family and society. The hospital based study done at Muhimbili National Hospital in 2002, revealed about 3 per 1000 live births are hydrocephalus/spina bifida victims. Going by this prevalence rate it is estimated that 4,840 new born babies are born with this problem in Tanzania every year. Those who accessed treatment are not even half of the numbers above. There is severe lack of awareness in the general public and young lives are being lost due to late diagnosis while we can prevent, treat and reduce sereneness of disabilities. Unplanned pregnancies, poor diet with lack of Folic Acid, contribute to children to born with Hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida. Distance to treatment centres, poverty, witchcraft beliefs contributes to the late diagnosis for children and increases disabilities, which leads to death.
Even after successful treatment, children with hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida are denied access to proper nutrition to nourish their young bodies, Early Childhood Development, primary healthcare, rehabilitation and to be integrated back in the community and education.