Child Protection training given to differently-abled children of a special school in Kurunegala. LEADS District Office in Kurunegala liaised the program having realized the vulnerability of these children. Russel de Alwis and Ruwan Krusse carried out the one-day training program.
‘Life is an adventure or nothing’ said Hellen Keller. A deaf and blind herself, she started the journey of education at the age of nine years.
Visiting Sandagala Special School in Kurunegala made us feel elated. It was the first time the Child Protection training team was going to address a group of children who are differentely-abled. At the gate a group of boysmet us and for a moment they looked like normal children. However a majority of 110 students in school are either visually impaired, hearing impaired and others differently abled. The school houses a few children with Down Syndrome as well.
At the entrance of the well-kept school the vision was prominently displayed. It read: ‘Develop a child who is able to overcome disability and fit into a modern society’. The school was amazingly clean, even the place where the children lived was well maintained. We noticed inspirational verses written on wood and hung on the walls everywhere. "It is kept clean by the students themselves" the Principal saud. He also noted that each of the children, immaterial of their age were all independent to the extent of washing their own clothes. all the students though curious about us were disciplined and very well behaved. The Principal introduced a few of the older children using sign language and some of them helped us to learn a little bit of sign lanuguage.
Our program on protection against child sexual abuse was dealing with possible threats to these resident students. Some children have parents but most of them have been abandoned when their disabilities were discovered. We realized that awareness on child protection is valuable for children who have little (or no) voice due to their disabilities.
We assembled the children, a good mix of boys and girls into two groups according to their ages 6-13 years and 14-18 years for an age appropriate workshop. Each of the two trainers were facilitated by an interpreter who provided communication in sign language. The children responded well during the program. The teachers also participated during the sessions. We used dolls and flash cards to deliver the message across. During the recess we dealt with individual queries coming from the children and they appeared very keen.
We learnt that the school recieves a small contribution from the government to provide meals for the children. On most days meals are brought by the villagers and well-wishers.
If you wish to contribute towards the school, their contact information can be found at: