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#DayoftheGirl DISABILITY: Empowering children with disabilities to achieve their potential

In Fiji, Palladium is working with the Fijian Ministry of Education to support children with disabilities so they unlock their full potential. Mereoni Daveta, AQEP Disability Inclusion Coordinator, gives us an insight into what this can mean to young girls across the country.

Assistive devices such as wheel chairs can be life changing for children with disability.

The Access to Quality Education Program works to empower children so they can unlock their potential. For children with disabilities, access to education remains a major roadblock to their progress and growth.

Mere* is one such example. She was born with physical impairment and is paralysed from the waist down. Last year, Mere was enrolled in a kindergarten which was operating under one of the AQEP supported schools in Savusavu.
In the first school term this year, Mere enrolled in Year 1. It was quite challenging for her. As she was physically impaired, her brother carried her to school on his back and took her home after school on a daily basis. While in school, Mere moved around in class on her hands.

Later in the year, her school’s Head Teacher attended an AQEP Inclusive Education workshop in Labasa which informed participants about the disability service providers available in Fiji. On her return from the workshop, the Head Teacher wrote to AQEP to request a wheelchair for Mere.

We liaised with the relevant service providers, including the Fiji Spinal Injuries Association and Motivation Australia, who then provided a wheelchair for Mere.
On 9 March this year, the AQEP Inclusive Education Awareness team visited Mere at her school and presented her with her new wheelchair. The team also conducted inclusive education training for students and the community.

It was an exciting day for Mere and her family, as well as her teacher. After three months, AQEP met with the Head Teacher, her teacher and her mother. All said that Mere has never missed a day of school since! She now enjoys school much more. Her wheelchair also has a table which makes it at easier for her to eat and write. No longer is Mere carried to school on her brother’s back; she happily joins her other siblings on their way to school each day.

Her mother expressed her sincere gratitude. Whilst in the past she used to stay at home, no she goes with Mere to church and to socialise.

Mere’s wheelchair has not only transformed her life, it has transformed the life of her family. Mere now enjoys her life to the fullest just like her able bodied peers.

*Names have been changed to protect children’s identities in keeping with child protection guidelines