The Benefits of Volunteering With Children Who Have Special Needs

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We all had that one teacher at school, the one whose name you can’t forget. The one who quietly noticed you might be struggling, might be disengaged, might be falling behind. The one who took the time to sit with you, help you think differently about the subject and encouraged you when you wanted to give up. We all remember that one teacher who changed everything.

For the children of Zimbabwe, where there is only 1 teacher to every 38 – 40 primary school children, this kind of support is not possible. Classrooms are overcrowded with children eager to learn, yet teachers are unsupported, under-skilled and over-burdened.

Now, can you imagine a classroom where each child has someone dedicated and committed to helping them succeed? Can you comprehend the difference it can make to a child’s life? We can, because this is exactly what happened in 2017 for a class of 20 Zimbabwean children, aged 9 – 14 years old, with a variety of learning disabilities.

The helping hands? Our volunteers.

 

In partnership with the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust and a private game reserve, we provide volunteer man-power in Zimbabwe to assist the teaching staff of Government-run school, Mkoba 4 Primary.

Mkoba 4 Primary school is situated in the high-density area of Mkoba and provides education for approximately 2200 students. Despite the size of the school, they only have one qualified teacher able to host a class for children with special needs. In early 2017, 20 children were identified as requiring special assistance and were removed from the main-stream in order to help them achieve the standards required for national educational assessment.

Throughout 2017, consistent volunteer presence in this classroom ensured that these children were provided with support that they otherwise would not receive. Through individual one-to-one attention during lessons and the creation of teaching aids to help them achieve the standards required for national educational assessment, the teacher was relieved of pressure and able to deliver the national curriculum in a specialized manner appropriate for the needs of these children.

Particular support is given in Math’s and English (part of the national curriculum) and through Book Club in the afternoon; an African Impact-run initiative that significantly improves English literacy skills among children, which in turn improves their chances for progressing in their education.

National assessments were completed at the end of the year, with an incredible 19 out of the 20 children in this special needs class attaining the standards required for re-integration into the main stream for 2018. It is a huge achievement and testament to the patience and passion of the volunteers who have worked with these students over the year.

However, it’s not just in this classroom where we are seeing the direct impact of one-to-one volunteer support. We see improvements every day in the children we work with in renovated shipping containers in South Africa; in the kids who voluntarily attend our Math’s and Reading Club in Zambia, and even those who join us on the beach in Zanzibar to learn more about the environment.

It’s because of this that we believe in the power of volunteering, so thank you to every single volunteer who has joined one of our education projects and helped children across Africa take their first steps towards a brighter future.

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