One of our main aims as a charity is to promote and develop better practices of care for children and young people with disabilities, who are often marginalised within Belarusian society and live extremely limited lives.
This is a wonderful special school in Gomel which we have supported over the last eleven years in numerous ways. When the Belarusian Education department expressed an interest in trying to integrate more physically disabled children into school, we decided that School No 5 would be the best place to start as it was already doing a fantastic job of teaching children with learning disabilities.
We brought Oleg Baikachov, the Head Teacher on an educational visit to Britain; persuaded the health department to pay for a neurologist to act as consultant for all the children in the school; put in ramps, disabled toilets, doors and carpets and sent out a minibus, which was bought for us by the Celebrities Guild of Great Britain.
From September 2004 a small class was set up for five children in wheelchairs and they have developed beyond all recognition. For the first year we funded a classroom assistant until the education department took this over. We continued to fund the driver and run a minibus throughout the nine years those children were in school. In January 2014 we gave a minibus to the Education Department and now they deliver a new group of children to school.
Click here for more photos of Special School No 5.
The Education Ministry in Belarus is now very keen to integrate some children with special needs into mainstream school.
This is happening in a limited way in Minsk, and a beautiful new school has recently been built in Gomel with ramps and a lift. But the staff and the local education department are keen to learn more about how they can best help children who have always been taught at home to fit happily into school life. Many children across Belarus are unable to go to school, something we take for granted in Britain.
Abraham Moss High School in North Manchester has been integrating children with a wide variety of special needs for over 20 years. The children also come from many different cultures and speak over 30 different languages.
Pamela Thompson (pictured above), Deputy Head of the school, has been responsible for integration from the start. She visited Belarus in October 2009 to give advice and training at School No 72 in Gomel.