It takes a village

Senior Disability Inclusion Advisor, Karen Heinicke-Motsch, with UNICEF staff at an inclusive early childhood centre in Papua New Guinea

Since 2018 CBM has been working with UNICEF in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to support disability inclusion in early childhood development programs across 50 centres. This coincided with the launch of new early learning centres in two provinces.

For some communities this was their first ever early childhood centre. Parents, community leaders and local authorities were excited and energised by the opportunities it presented for villages where there weren’t services available. It is also an important step towards inclusion for children with disabilities with most children with disabilities out of school.

Parents of children with disabilities often feel isolated and are often not aware that their children have a right to education. So it was encouraging to see local communities and parents taking charge of building playgrounds and refurbishing or building early childhood centres. Their enthusiasm was contagious and an important first step to ensuring children are accessing education.

After one year we can see progress towards what these centres and programs were trying to achieve. It’s has such a positive impact for children with and without disabilities. By mid-2019 55 children with disabilities were enrolled across the 50 centres in these two provinces.

Inclusive playground in Papua New Guinea.

Inclusive playground in Papua New Guinea.

The programs are working with disability service providers, churches, disabled peoples organisations and government to integrate their work and to better support their communities and the families accesses these programs.

 

When parents feel supported and children with disabilities are encouraged to join in early childhood programs ALL children thrive.  OR from an early childhood education teacher in PNG: “kids with and without disabilities should stay together and learn together. [kids with disabilities] are kids like everyone else”

The good work and progress in this program has expanded both the scope and reach of inclusive early childhood and development programs in PNG. It has also showcased the model to the PNG government and led to new commitments from government in this area.