During our outreach efforts in late 2019, we heard from an organization known as Disabilities Africa (DA). Executive officers responded to our inquiries with an inspirational story about a teacher named Ruth in coastal Kenya tasked with supporting neurodivergent children.
Ruth was tasked in supporting five students with varying conditions, with no resources, with no other professionals, and just a chalkboard and a singular piece of chalk. She takes them for nature walks while carrying four children with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. Our team, along with DA’s, is in absolute shock.
While this is an isolated narrative, this narrative is similar in other areas of Kenya, whether in Sierra Leone, Uganda, or Zambia. Students in these areas rely on one individual who is often ill-equipped for the care and development of social skills for students with conditions in disadvantaged areas. The “tokenistic approach” to inclusive education in Africa in which schools and governments employ minimal strategies to secure more funding from international organizations harms students with learning conditions more than their original situations.
Statistically speaking, approximately 2% of students with intellectual differences are able to receive a substantial education–this does not account for proper care, intervention-based support, and social interaction. Even with funding by the United Nations and non-governmental organizations, the priorities of education go to neurotypical primary and secondary schooling, ignoring the development of inclusive environments.
While our Unitopia team had not seen firsthand experiences in Africa, receiving this story in reality rather than a fiction book stunned us, and motivated us to support neurodivergent students abroad. While we inquired about volunteer opportunities, support systems and potential ways to support African differently-abled education, the COVID-19 pandemic struck supporting organizations like DA with financial difficulties.
Our support became centered upon funding multiple African organizations like the transnational DA and small organizations like Viagenco and Angels’ Special Needs Center, centered in Uganda. Through our support to these organizations, Unitopia and its patrons have raised $920 for the purposes of inclusive practices, playschemes, and basic caretaking supplies. Our yearly donation to DA supported equipment costs, maintenance, and salaries for the Sierra Leone playschemes, in which children, with learning differences or not, are able to enjoy sensory-based, stimulating activities. Our donations to Viagenco and Angels’ Center directly funded masks and hygiene supplies due to the high comorbidity associated with COVID-19, along with safe spaces for neurodivergent children.
The Unitopia community is dedicated to support inclusive practices across the world. While we started in the Bay Area, we acknowledge and pledge to assist international organizations as individuals in underprivileged communities receive inadequate support. If you’re interested in supporting us or have any questions, feel free to donate or contact us!