Tran Thi Lan, a 68-year old grandmother, exhibited the love of 10,000 mothers as she fought an uphill battle to give her disabled granddaughter, Nguyen Thi Giang , an education.
Carried past term during her mother’s pregnancy, Giang was born with developmental disabilities. By the time she was one month old, her grandmother noticed that she was not learning and growing as quickly as other babies. With no assistance available, Lan relied on Vietnamese home remedies and the power of her own love to help Giang grow into a strong baby. She began feeding her frogs and rice gruel in an effort to strengthen her bones. Still, by the time she was three, Giang could not walk and could only speak a few words.
In many parts of Vietnam, children with disabilities are ostracized by their communities and hidden away at home. But Lan was determined that Giang would have the same opportunities as other children. As Giang grew older, Lan began to focus on what she felt would be essential to Giang’s development – her education. Lan began to appeal to different primary schools for Giang’s admittance, but door after door was closed on Giang. Until, at last, Lan discovered CRS’ Inclusive Education Program, and the door to learning and acceptance began to open for her.
Catholic Relief Services, in partnership with Vietnam’s National Institute for Education Strategies and Curriculum, designed a program to promote inclusion of children with disabilities in the country’s primary and preschools. The Inclusive Education program focuses on teacher training and builds bridges between education, health and community support groups, especially through youth groups and women’s unions.
Now Giang’s teachers and classmates are supportive and help her with her work, instead of excluding her. Giang has been able to graduate with her class each year, and is no longer faced with the shame of being turned away from an education. And Giang, her family, her school and neighborhood are learning from each other about the benefits of an education – together, as one community.
The Inclusive Education Program operates in three of Vietnam’s northern provinces and is a central component of Vietnam’s 10-year education strategy. Similar CRS education projects are also being implemented in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.