Imagine being a parent of a child with a disability in a country where there are not only an alarming lack of schools to educate your child, but where stigma suggests that your child does not even deserve an education.
Imagine barely being able to feed your family, and wondering how you will continue your income-generating activities when you have simultaneously to care for your child with a disability.
In Blantyre, Malawi, thanks to the vision and tireless devotion of one man, Victor Musowa, children with disabilities are receiving high quality education, therapy, and nutritious meals. And it’s not just traditional school-aged children who attend this school. Recognizing the critical role of early intervention therapy, this school, the AKF, admits children as young as four months.
The clinic/school has imported educational ideas from other parts of Africa and the United States and Canada, enabling Victor and his staff to take a much more ambitious and innovative approach to the development of early literacy and numeracy skills in the populations that they serve. Rarely across the entire sub-continent can you find a 6 month old with disabilities that is already in a rehabilitation program. Seldom in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa can you find any organized services for pre-school children with disabilities. But, at the Able Kids Foundation school, you can.
Victor and his associates are also empowering families to help each other. To promote sustainability, he has developed an innovative training program in which mothers of children currently enrolled in the school train mothers of children on the waiting list on educational and therapy techniques that they can perform with their children at home while they wait for a spot in the school. Victor also has plans to conduct teacher training at the local primary school, so that his students can eventually transition to “traditional” school and receive appropriate support from their teachers.
AKFs growing impact is taking place in the context of important changes for people with disabilities long overdue throughout Africa. AKF is helping to show the way. This organization has the potential to serve as a model for similar initiatives throughout the country and region. There is support from a growing support network in Canada, a foundation in the United States, universities in the United States and a college in Canada. AKF is demonstrating replicable low-cost, culturally relevant ways to reach some of the neediest children in the entire universe. After fully establishing his school in Blantyre, Victor hopes to open other schools throughout Malawi, and eventually help others replicate his model throughout the region. It’s a slow process, but one that few local innovators will pursue more persistently, relentlessly and vigorously than Victor Musowa, a young man with both a dream and the practical skills and strong will to realize it.