The Miracle of School
My wife is a teacher, and today (in Canada) kids are going back to school. We sometimes take school for granted. Certainly most Canadian kids do. In my experience working internationally education is one of the key tools in breaking the cycle of poverty to whole communities. It is even more crucial in the cycle of poverty and disability.
I worked with a friend who had previously been in Bangladesh where he set up agro-businesses that were owned by the women workers. One of the most successful was a sun-dried fruits and vegetables cooperative, which eventually had an Asia-wide market. He went back to visit this project 15 years after he left, to see the impact on the women who began in stark poverty and now were part of the ownership cooperative that brought so much income to them and their community. His first impression was disappointment. It seemed as if there was very little improvement in the homes and villages. He asked a group of women why, with all the income, there seemed to be so little, visible improvement. These women actually laughed at him, and said, yes, their homes were not that changed, but now their son – or daughter – or in one case grandchild – was a doctor/lawyer/teacher/accountant. They had invested their new income in education for the next generations. The cycle of poverty was forever changed for their families.
I recall a story in Malawi and a girl named – I kid you not – Miracle! Miracle one day had an extremely high fever (likely cerebral malaria) and should have died. She did live, but became incapacitated and had symptoms identical to extreme cerebral palsy. She could not hold her head up, sit, or talk. The cbm-supported community-based rehabilitation worker took her case and over a year and a half visited the family weekly in the rural village. Miracle’s mother worked daily with her along with these weekly visits. I spent some time looking over the many weekly case notes and reports and noted the milestones – the day it was recorded she could hold her head up on her own; the day she sat on her own for the first time; the day she stood without help; the day she took her first steps. What actually sent goosebumps down my arm was the last weekly report – the one done just days before we visited. At the end, in capital letters, the community worker recorded “THE CHILD IS READY FOR SCHOOL”.
As Canadian kids go back to school today, let’s think of the miracle of school for so many kids with disabilities trying to break that cycle of poverty and disability. Many of our interventions include medical care, rehabilitation or providing mobility devices. These are very important interventions on their own. However, one of the key reasons they are important is because it enables those kids to go to school. I want to see all children with disabilities in our care to have a note saying “the child is ready for school”!