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Children with Disabilities Waiting in Queue for School and Kindergarten
Eufrosinia Ştirbu from the village of Brăviceni, district of Orhei, has been prisoner to her wheelchair since she was young. She has periodically been placed in the boarding school for children with disabilities in Hânceşti. For many years now her mother has sacrificed her career to take care of her. “We were afraid to enroll her in the village school. All the children are healthy there and they were going to laugh at her. Children are not used yet to accept in the classes children in wheelchairs. On the other hand, how should we carry her through mud or in this high heat as it is now?” complains Maria Cazac, Efrosenia’s mother. The parents insisted and two years ago the child started to be schooled at home. However, the classes lasted very little, only for several months, and she did not manage to learn how to write and read, the girl’s mother says. Maria Cazac is concerned that her daughter who will soon be 16 will not be taught as part of the mandatory school program: “I tried to get a teacher for her to come teach her at home, so that she can read and write but they said it was too late as she already was beyond the school age. She turned 16 in February but they came home only for primary school.” At present there are no teaching programs for the persons with disabilities who have turned 16. In the absence of an individual program and of a specialist to work with her, Frosea, as her parents call her, risks to add to the high number of illiterates among the youth with disabilities. Frosea’s parents have recently become convinced that the girl could have learned to get around by herself since with the support of the Orhei mobile team the girl easily learned to use the computer, for listening to music at this point.
Frosea would need treatment and surgery that may help her walk again; however her parents do not have money at least for going to the hospital to assess her health condition. The parents do not even know to which benefits they are entitled. Awaiting the promises of the governors to increase the disability pensions, they do very hard with the 600 lei allowance that Frosea receives and what the head of the family makes during seasonal works. Frosea’s mother has sacrificed her career to take care of the daughter. Frosea, however, almost never goes outside because there is nobody she can communicate with. The girl’s dreams are resumed now at a bathroom and toilet adapted to her needs.
Teachers Do Not Want to Work with Children with Special Needs
Vlăduţ Bucur from the same locality will soon be 12. Although he is supposed to be in the fifth grade, due to a mental disability, the boy remained outside school. He was in the first grade only several months, after which he started to be schooled at home and then was abandoned by the teachers. The last attempt to enroll him in the village school failed in September 2011. His parents bought him a school bag and new suit but the school administration did not accept him. The boy’s mother Maria Bucur says that she would do anything to see her child “in line with the others” but she already doesn’t know where else to seek help: “The principal told me it was not possible to enroll him in school. Teachers kept coming home, one teacher one month, another teacher another month and so on, they changed several times but I never saw him be aggressive, on the contrary, he was getting up early to learn…
Violeta Cojocar, who is part of the Orhei mobile team, a structure created two years ago to identify the children with special needs and identify their needs, says that Vlăduţ can integrate in the local school and it is unclear why he has not been accepted so far: “We don’t see any problems in him going to school because he can walk, he writes everything, if you give him homework, he does it. Yes, he does not know the program for his age, not because he does not have abilities but because he didn’t learn.
The school in Brăviceni, Orhei does not have unschooled children but there are other children in the village… who do not go to school
The principal of the local school Raisa Maţenco proudly told us that this year she had not had any unschooled child. When we asked her about the children with disabilities from the village, she admitted that there still were children that didn’t go to school but specified that they were being schooled at home. The home schooling takes place only for the primary grades, the principal says, because “this is how the school program prescribes.” For instance, for the second grade, 7 hours are reserved - 2 hours for the Romanian language, 2 hours of math, arts and activities, as preferred by the child. The teaching is done according to an individual program, the school principal specified. We can only suppose how much a child can learn in those 7 hours reserved for the home schooling. Violeta Cojocar is skeptical in regard to the efficiency of home schooling. She says that the teachers do not go to hold those classes and if they do go they do not work properly with the children.
The principal also says that there are no separate requirements for the children with light mental disabilities who attend the school, and there are 9 such children in Brăviceni, who came from the special school of Isacova, Orhei, which had closed down. For example, the school curricula do not prescribe standards for the children with intellectual disabilities. “The teacher can work with them according to an individual program but we do not receive tests for assessing these children; they must be assessed according to the general curricula,” the principal specifies.
Referring to the Vlăduţ Bucur case, the school principal confirmed that the boy had been excluded from school based on the decision of the Orhei medical-psycho-pedagogical evaluation commission: “This right is given by the medcal-pedagogical commission and the decision was made to exclude him from school. The social assistance got involved in solving the problem of this child but it is impossible with his behavior in the mass school.”
At the same time, the principal admitted that the teachers who taught Vlăduţ at home for several months ‘did not hang in there’: “There have been cases when the teachers did not stand the home schooling and were changed, they couldn’t resist from a psychological point of view. The boy did not show any progress in his learning.We wondered if Vlăduţ did not progress in his learning for the exact reason that the teachers did not do their work well. It is certain that in the past year the school administration has never checked on the child. Violeta Cojocar from the mobile team, a service that is part of the Social Assistance of Orhei, promised to try this summer at least to get Vlăduţ’s file re-evaluated by the medical-psycho-pedagogical commission so that the child be enrolled at the village school in the fall.
At the Kindergarten, Left All Day Long in a Corner
Dumitraş, a five-year-old boy from the village of Manta, district of Orheihas has been diagnosed with progressive cataract on both eyes, associated with other affections and therefore he was qualified as having a high level disability. This year his parents decided to enroll him in the village kindergarten. The boy’s mother Tatiana Zabolotnii says that when she went to supervise the boy for several days everything was fine at the kindergarten, although there were children of different ages, from 2 to 6, in the group where her boy was included. “After I stopped going to the kindergarten to supervise him, the boy was telling me that he was sitting all day long in the corner and when the other children at lunch were given sausage, he was given just bread. The boy has a poor sight but he hears very well, he understand everything and there is no way he could invent all that. After we raised this issue, it was made clear to me that I should not bring the child to the kindergarten anymore,” the boy’s mother recounts. We went to the village kindergarten but found the doors locked. Some children playing in the street dust told us that the kindergarten was on vacation.
The parents of Dumitraş work only for the boy’s treatment. They put together penny after penny hoping to collect the necessary amount to treat their son in a specialized clinic in Moscow. “Doctors until recently treated him for something at his head but the tomographic examination made at a private clinic showed he had nothing at his head, the problem was with his eyes and the diseases is progressing,” Tatiana Zabolotnîi tells us. Although the boy has a disability and should enjoy benefits in treatment and diagnosing, the mother says that they are covering most of the costs: “We still have receipts of over 4 thousand lei for investigations that the social assistance promised to refund but five month have already passed and we have not received a penny.”
It Is Possible in Other Communities
If in Mana Dumitraş did not have the fortune of being enrolled with his peers in the village kindergarten, in other two villages in the district of Orhei -Jora de Jos and Ciocâlteni – other two children with disabilities of preschool age were helped to be enrolled in the village kindergarten. In both cases the local governments, the kindergarten administrations and the social assistance got involved. Marinel, 4, from Ciocâlteni has been attending kindergarten for nearly a year now and the changes are obvious: the child eats and goes to the pot by himself. The little Andreea, 5, from the village of Jora de Jos has changed in those four months since her parents have been taking her to the kindergarten: she is more joyful, has become more sociable and already communicates with the children of her age. These two cases, as the others, when children with disabilities are included in the society, being treated as equals, as the other children, prove that it is possible.
Local Public Administrations Do Not Capitalize All Resources To Help Those with Special Needs
Ludmila Malcoci, director of the organization Keystone who for many years has been implementing social inclusion programs for Moldovan persons with disabilities says that any change happens hard: “Many times the teachers do not to work with the children with disabilities at home because it is harder; they have to prepare additionally, to learn new teaching methods and many do not like this.”Another problem is related to the capitalization of public resources meant for the services for persons with disabilities. Although in the past years money has been budgeted in the public budget for various new services to be accessed by the persons with disabilities, services that could help them actually develop their abilities, so that in the end they can take care of themselves independently and do not depend on social aids, the responsible authorities do not make the necessary requests to receive this money,”Ludmila Malcoci specifies. “The new services must be monitored; the local administration must contribute with certain resources and in order not to take additional responsibilities, some managers prefer to pretend they do not know anything.”
No Child Should Remain Outside the Education System
Since July last year in Moldova there has been in force the National Program for Development of Inclusive Education for 2011-2020. This document requires all education institutions to open inclusive classes where there are children with special educational needs. Valentin Crudu, head of division at the Ministry of Education, admits that there are still many barriers in regard to the educational inclusion of children with disabilities but specifies that for each child with special needs special conditions should be created so that they are able to study at the local school. For this, starting with 2013, funds will be directed to each institution where children with disabilities will be matriculated to cover their educational needs, Valentin Crudu specified: “The new formula of funding per student will enable us provide a bigger financial support to the schools that will include children with disabilities because their costs will be higher. In all such institutions support teachers will be hired and recovery activities will be organized.”
The official says that “there is no law in place that would forbid the access of children with special educational requirements to school, no special laws for certain categories of children: each child must study in the district where they live.In case of children with health problems the family doctors center or the medical-psycho-pedagogical consultation can recommend that the child be schooled in a special institution for a certain determined period (from 6 months to one year). In the past years the general trend promoted by the authorities has been that each child is included in a general education institution.
Home schooling is done based an order of the Ministry of Education adopted in 2007. This type of schooling is done based on a request filed by the parents and a certificate from the doctor who recommends that the child, depending on his diagnosis, be taught at home. The schooling is done by the educational institution in whose jurisdiction the child lives and the teachers are paid extra for this. In Moldova there have been a few cases already when children took their final exams at home. Referring to the case of Vlăduţ Bucur from Brăviceni, Orhei, Valentin Crudu said that “the approach of the administration to condition home-based schooling on the progress made by the student was not correct.”
In the recently ended school year 420 children with disabilities were integrated in 70 secondary education schools. This summer the first 39 children with special needs graduated the gymnasium level having been attested as the other children.
P.S. We have given the real names of the children about whom we wrote in this article because they have real problems and special needs that the responsible persons had to solve to safeguard their rights, as required by law, and the community is required to accept them and not reject them. These children have real chances of standing firm on their feet if they benefited from the surgeries they need. The parents of these children cannot cope with the costs implied, therefore in this way we try to appeal to all people with goodwill to lend help to those who need it very much at this point.
This investigation has been produced with the support of the project “Transparency and Accountability Through Joint Watchdog Activities between the Moldovan Media and the Civil Society,” implemented by the CONTACT Center and the Rural Development Agency – Centru (Orhei) with the financial support of UNDEF and is part of the Campaign “Journalists for Equal Opportunities and Diversity”, carried out by the Center for Investigative Journalism with the support of the Soros Foundation Moldova.