CAMBODIA: Don Bosco Technical School is Providing Accessible Education for Students with Disabilities
(MissionNewsire) Don Bosco Technical School Kep/Hatrans, located in southern Cambodia, has been working to make changes to the school’s buildings and dormitories to ensure they are accessible for students with physical disabilities. In January 2015, Don Bosco Tech was awarded a grant from the Office of American Schools and Hospitals Abroad at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to help facilitate this work. The school has also received funding to aid this construction from Don Bosco Bonn and the Sawasdee Foundation.
In 2013, Don Bosco Kep began welcoming students with disabilities. One such student, Ang, who is enrolled in the art communications program, was afflicted by polio at a young age and lost his ability to walk. While he does have access to a motorized wheelchair and a motorbike with three wheels that allows him to get to and from the campus buildings and up the ramp to his classrooms, he still requires assistance. The art school is located on the second floor of the youth center building and the male residence is on the third. It is only with assistance from his classmates that he is able to access those areas of the building, which often leaves Ang feeling like a burden to those around him.
With the USAID funding, Don Bosco Kep has been making modifications including the installation of elevators in the main buildings, the construction of ramps to access areas for community gatherings and the creation of a students’ and teachers’ residence with all of the modifications that will allow those with physical disabilities to live and attend school independently. The funding is also supporting creating handicap accessible bathrooms and the purchase of equipment to aid the learning environment for youth with disabilities.
For children with disabilities living in Cambodia, access to education is limited and the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty is almost nonexistent. UNICEF notes in its State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilities report that globally, close to 61 percent of boys finish school but for boys with disabilities that number drops to 51 percent. For girls, 53 percent finish school but among those living with a disability, only 42 percent finish their education.
The UNICEF report also notes that studies across countries show a strong link between poverty and disability, which in turn is linked to gender, health and employment issues. The report further suggests that inclusion in mainstream schools and educational settings is usually most appropriate for children with disabilities and when teachers and personnel are trained to consider disability-related issues, they look upon inclusion of children with disabilities more positively.
“Children living in poverty with a disability are even less likely to attend school when compared to their peers,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Youth with disabilities have the same ability to achieve as their peers, if given the opportunity. Don Bosco Kep is working to make sure that all students have access to the opportunity to lead fulfilling lives and contribute to the social, cultural and economic vitality of their communities.”
Don Bosco Kep provides basic, secondary and technical education to poor youth living in the Cambodian provinces of Kep, Kampot, Takeo, Ratanakiri and Mondolkiri. The school’s educational and social development programs help students break the cycle of poverty and become contributing members of their communities. Don Bosco Kep provides special attention to children and young people from ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities, orphans and at-risk youth in danger of becoming victims of human trafficking, labor exploitation or other abuses.
Jaime Correa-Montalvo, program director at the Salesian Missions Office for International Programs headquartered in New Rochelle, New York, visited the campus of Don Bosco Kep to oversee the implementation of the new grant.
“We appreciate the funding from USAID that will allow Salesian missionaries to transform the Don Bosco Kep campus to welcome and giver greater access to students with physical disabilities,” says Correa-Montalvo. “The new construction modifications open up the campus allowing students to have better access from building to building and have a greater degree of self-sufficiency.”
Salesian Missions – Work in Cambodia
UNICEF – Cambodia