When including children with disabilities helps all students develop

Lily Kudzro

When a child glides a paintbrush across a canvas to compose a lake, or sculpts an elephant from clay, something magical happens. That magic is not found in the finished product, its unimportant whether the painting resembles a real lake, or if the elephant’s trunk is proportional to its body. The magic is in the process of creating.

It is the magic of the creative learning process that Devio Arts Centre aims to introduce to the Early Childhood Development (ECD) School System through the impact learning curriculum, which emphasizes and fosters inclusion of children living with disabilities.

The curriculum engages children in arts, design thinking, structured & free play, sign language and personal development. The sign language component plays an especially important role in the inclusion of deaf children in ECD classrooms, but also can have immense benefits to children that are not hard-of-hearing. And that is where the real magic happens.

We realized that sign language speaking is an art itself, and the coordination of combining the brain and fingers to communicate helps children increase their concentration skills as well as critical thinking skills, which is exactly in line with our work.

The only difference between deaf children and hearing children's learning outcomes is only linked to communication, so therefore if all children are engaged with sign language deaf children can be educated alongside hearing children who can achieve the same learning outcomes, and potentials in the long run.

As a human rights activist, social entrepreneur and creative individual myself, I recognized that process based learning is undervalued in most African schools, particularly in the nurturing of children’s creative potentials in the early formative years.

I decided to address the problem through Devio Arts Centre, which runs training programs for Early Childhood Development Teachers as well as providing afterschool programs for young people at the community and national level using the impact learning curriculum, ensuring that children with disabilities are not excluded.

The after-school program provides time for students to practice arts, frequently using technology and play. For instance, participants learn how to use software like "Scratch" for designing, and experimenting with different forms of art. Some children have created their own characters and developed a comic book on sanitation. The program also works with volunteers from Google who serve as adult mentors and role models for young children.

Since 2014, Devio Arts Centre has trained over 250 Teachers and impacted the lives of over 4,500 children, with an endorsement from the Government of Ghana’s Creative Arts Ministry in 2016. Devio Arts has also been given great recognition both locally and internationally, as well as winning of prestigious awards like the Future Awards Africa prize in Education in 2015.

Currently, Devio Arts Centre is advocating for policies to introduce sign language at the Early Childhood development level, so that deaf children can be integrated into mainstream school system by 2030.

Passionate about inclusive education? Sign the Devio Arts Centre’s Change.org petition!

Though the sign language focused programming is currently young (it was started late last year), the feedback received from teachers to date is amazing, and is showing that teachers and children alike are reacting positively to the process of exploring a new language together in fun and creative ways.

Building upon this momentum will be crucial to fully meeting the 2030 SDG promise of inclusive education for all. Devio Arts Centre will continue connecting with schools to introduce more and more children to sign language and other creativity-promoting instruction. The team is also seeking impactful new partnerships with other innovators working in arts-based education, sign language development, or other related fields.

If you are similarly committed to hands-on learning that is both rigorous and innovative, you are most welcome to reach out and connect!

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Lily Kudzro is an extraordinarily passionate social entrepreneur with over five years’ experience in advocacy and human rights law. As a young Executive Producer, Presenter, Writer and Founder of a leading non-profit organization in Ghana, Devio Arts Centre, she empowers children, young people and teachers through various creative programs she offers at both the community and national level in Ghana.

Photo Credits: Ashleigh for AusAID ; Devio Arts Centre ; Ingmar Zahorsky

 

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