Angel’s Center in Kampala, Uganda is a small school with an enormous heart. A heart for children with disabilities, ranging from Down’s syndrome and cerebral palsy to hydrocephalus and autism.
Last year, we donated a Lifeplayer to Angel’s Center. To our knowledge, the Lifeplayer had not been used specifically for children with developmental disabilities. Yet, at this extraordinary school, it’s being used in new and creative ways. Teachers have recorded songs and rhymes, the alphabet, numbers, the names of animals and household items. Children even record their own voices. With no outside material to rely on, the teachers have created their own curriculum. They use the Lifeplayer to play them.
The Lifeplayer is Used all Day
Rose Nambooze, the founder of the school, explains, “Choosing the Lifeplayer for learning was the right decision, Children with Down’s syndrome love music and they learn by repeated messages. Our teachers find it easy to manage and it reduces the time they spend repeating messages verbally all the time.”
“The Lifeplayer is used all day. First we use it for morning exercises for the children. A song is played and children can stretch their bodies and muscles. The songs were recorded by our teachers. Two, we use it during some classes, especially for the children with autism and Down’s syndrome. It helps improve their attention span. Three, we use it to memorize lessons and words to improve speech.”
For Mama Shadati, one of the parents at Angel’s Center, the Lifeplayer has had an immense impact on her son. “Today, my son can recite the alphabetical order, numbers, days of the week and the national anthem. Shadati has become very active and understanding. We thank the teachers for the support to our children; I have hope that my son will be able to do something in future.”
Uganda lacks appropriate services for children with developmental challenges. As a society it stigmatises children with disabilities, which means that parents receive very little support for their children’s development and education. According to a report commissioned by the UN Children’s Fund and Ministry of Gender, about 2,5 million children in Uganda live with some form of disability. Only around 9% of these children attend primary school. This drops to 6% for secondary school. AbleChildAfrica estimates that there are around 52 million children in Africa who live with some form of disability.
Rose, whose son Abryl was born with Down’s syndrome and a heart defect. She started Angel’s Center after realising how difficult life is for parents in Uganda who have disabled children. No special facilities exist for children with special needs, and people with disabilities are largely excluded from regular social and economic life. What started in a room with 10 children has blossomed into a school of 35 children, ranging in age from two to 12. As Rose reminds us, “Teaching children with disability requires a lot of creativity.”
We are thrilled and deeply moved that the imaginative and innovative use of a single Lifeplayer can make such a profound impact on these special children.
And for the future, Rose has big plans. She’d like to see more Lifeplayers being used in other special needs schools in Uganda. She has dreams of training parents on using the technology to improve learning among children in their own homes. Watch this space!