The tears begin to flow on Rosa Montana when she hears Isabell say 25 years after she started fighting for her daughter's right to education. "I no longer feel that there are boundaries. Things can be more or less difficult, but not impossible. ”Rosa's long struggle is beginning to pay off.
Rosa is responsible for educational issues at the umbrella organization FECONORI. She has taken me to OCN, the National Association of the Visually Impaired's cooperation organization in Nicaragua. As I peek in from the sidewalk through the lattice gate of OCN's house in central Managua, I see a porch with wooden rocking chairs. In the chairs, two women sit close together and rock slowly. I can hear them talking and laughing. We enter through the gate and greet Isabell Massías González and Eliuth Martinez Fouseca.
Isabel is seventeen years old and attending high school. Eliuth is one of eleven special teachers who, on behalf of the Ministry of Education, support students and train teachers in schools where there are children and young people with disabilities. A relatively new initiative that is a result of FECONORI's collaboration with the Ministry of Education to make the school more inclusive.
Isabel and Eliuth got to know each other just over a year ago when Eliuth first visited Isabel's school. It was a meeting that changed a lot for Isabell.
A crooked road full of challenges
When Isabell started school, she went to a special school for six years, together with other children with disabilities. There she felt accepted, but the school was far from home and only had teaching up to grade six. Then she had to choose between leaving school or starting a regular school.
-Because I wanted to continue in school, I started in the same school as my brother. He was ashamed of me and the other students laughed at me. My mother was the only one who supported me and who believed in my capacity. With her support, I managed to continue, says Isabell.
The teachers did not take the time to explain how she would do different things. She was completely reluctant to ask her classmates who did not care about her either.
Once she won a competition. She was the best in the class at memorizing and reciting a long text from the Bible. The winner would continue to compete against other children from other schools. But the teacher gave the prize to another student because she did not think Isabell could go to another school and represent the class.
-I felt in every way very excluded and isolated, she says.
Her school is on two levels with a spiral staircase between the floors. To avoid being even more annoyed, Isabell stopped using her white cane. This made it difficult for henna to get around the school. Several times she was close to falling down the steep stairs. But the stick remained at home and was used by the brothers as a toy.
When conditions changed, Isabel's capacity became visible
When Eliuth came to school, she immediately saw that Isabell did not have the right conditions to be able to participate in the teaching. In the classroom, students sat at large tables. The only one who sat with his back to the teacher was Isabell.
-My opinion was never important. The teachers did not bother to ask me or to adapt the teaching material so that I could also participate, says Isabell.
Eliuth made sure that the class moved to a classroom that was better for Isabel, with other furniture that made it easier for her to hear what the teachers were saying. Eliuth also taught the teachers various methods that make the teaching more comprehensible to Isabell. For example, she showed the math teacher how he can let Isabell use her own body when she is to understand the meaning of a diagonal or other mathematical terms.
She also helped Isabell to organize her school bag so that she could more easily and quickly find what she needed for the various lessons. And she gave Isabell a new white cane, so she could orient herself in school.
When the teachers and the principal saw the effects of the changes Eliuth made, they became positive and eventually began to include Isabell in the teaching.
Inclusive education is based on everyone around having knowledge and understanding of the needs
Eliuth visited Isabel's school twice a month.
- It is important to work from a holistic perspective. This means including both the teachers, the principal, the family, the other students and their parents and working with the student's own attitude. Everyone must want to change the situation for the better. There are often many simple ways that do not have to cost a lot of money, says Eliuth.
- That is why support from other countries is very important. By exchanging experiences with people from Sweden, we get new ideas for how we can work, but we must of course adapt the change work to the conditions that exist here, she says.
It is noticeable that Isabell and Eliuth have a close relationship and that Eliuth has meant a lot to Isabell after her mother died and she no longer had the same support from home. It has been a difficult year, but today she seems to be feeling relatively well and can start making plans for the future.
- In a way, it has become a little harder, she says and smiles. I have to work much harder now because there are much more demands on me. But it's worth it because I also learn so much more. I have a better contact with my classmates and feel happy when I go to school.
She does not know exactly what she wants to train for but she knows she wants to continue studying.
- Today it feels like there are many different things I could do. I no longer feel that there are boundaries. Things can be more or less difficult, but not impossible, she says and turns a smiling face towards Eliuth.
I look at Rosa and see how her tears begin to flow. Her 25-year struggle for the right to education has paid off. Not for the one she started fighting for, her own daughter, but for other daughters and sons in Nicaragua. She thinks it's starting to get light. There is still a long way to go, but today there are teachers, principals, families and children who know what inclusive education means, how it can be implemented and who have experience of what good results it gives.