Acknowledging that educational inclusion is an important step toward an inclusive society, Save the Children in China launched an inclusive education campaign with UNESCO, One Foundation (Founded by Famous Kungfu Artist Jet Li), One Plus One, Inclusion China and China Research Association of Special Education on 21 September in Beijing. Save the Children in China sent out a clear message that inclusive education benefits every child using a slogan called “let’s go to school together!” Save the Children in China is doing whatever it takes to ensure that all children with disabilities equally access to quality basic education together with mainstream children under three principles - No Discrimination, No Exclusion and No Ignorance.
Data from the China Disabled Persons’ Federation indicates that only 72 per cent of children with disabilities aged 6 to 14 are receiving nine years of basic education as required by law. Given that attendance rates among the general population during 6-14 years of age is nearly 100 per cent, a gap of this magnitude is astounding. Official statistics also reveal that 80 per cent of total children with disabilities live in China’s less-developed rural areas.
As a green hand in campaign, I have doubts and frustration from time to time in the past 10 months in our team to plan and implement an inclusive education campaign. It’s harder than I thought to move things forward in terms of engaging stakeholders, establishing partnership with different organizations and working with people from PR company.
‘What’s the point of embarking on such a difficult campaign?’ I kept asking myself in heart.
I kind of found an answer for these questions that have haunted me for months when I met Luo Chunjiu at the campaign launch ceremony and knew his story later. Luo is a student who comes from one of our inclusive education project school in Yunnan. Born with phocomelia, he has difficulties in walking for a long time. But this time, he travelled about 2,900 km with his mother, his best friend in his class and the latter’s mother for our campaign launch.
He was timid when I tried to talk to him in the morning rehearsal. ‘What do you like to do in spare time?’ I asked. ‘Playing Ping-Pong (table tennis) with friends,’ he replied. Although it’s hard for me to imagine how he managed to do so, I stopped asking him about it as I was afraid of being seen as a fool by the teenager.
His math teacher Wu Dan who also came to the ceremony told me later that he stood at the table tennis table to play. ‘He is very brave and fond of challenging himself with things that others think are too dangerous or difficult for him,’ Wu said.
Luo Chunjiu crossed the road by himself when he visited Tian’anmen Square with his mom and his best friend.
Luo loves his 3-year-old sister. As his math teacher allowed students to take turn borrowing a camera from her to take photos, Luo took many pictures for his sister. 'I dreamed in my dreams that I have both hands so I can hug my sister and I dreamed my legs grow out as others so I can help my parents for farming.’ Luo shared his little secrets with his math teacher in his weekly journal.
Now Luo is in the 6th grade with 5 days in a boarding school and goes back home during weekends. He has managed to go to the toilet, queue with others to have meals in canteens, play roles in drama and take care of himself just like other students.
‘I like going to school just like other kids and I want to go to a middle school after graduation,’ he said.