Under the Tunaweza Inclusive Education (TIE) project, we also focused on advocacy towards the adaptation of inclusive education policies guided by the US Department of Education’s IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). It was realized that for change to happen in terms of inclusivity in education for people living with disabilities, we needed to address all sides of the problem. This meant that we couldn’t focus on the students alone but also needed to have conversations with people at the delivery end of education. This was to cement positive possibilities of change in the way the education system for students living with disabilities works.
We held meetings with teachers and school administrators where we emphasized and re-echoed inclusive education and highlighted some of the ways they could take up to realize this goal. The meetings had a strong emphasis on behaviour analysis of students and how best teachers can teach them. We also took part in identifying and training disability champions. Disability champions are people living with disabilities, particularly students in this case trained to be ambassadors for PWDs. They are equipped with knowledge of their rights and empowered to speak against PWD discrimination. This was so they can be a voice for their peers in all the places the organizations could not reach even long after the end of the project.
We organized a pilot activity focusing on community awareness and sensitization and made sure to be actively involved in the first advocacy journeys taken up by our identified disability champions. This was so that we could offer guidance and for us to learn from the way they took up the activity.
We saw a positive response from the community towards the disability champions because they were people they could relate with. Our champions were able to report more engagement coming from their peers. Our biggest lesson was that inclusivity can go a long way. Our work became more effective when we identified champions to collaborate with.