Jamilya and Muhammad couldn’t go to school before, but they’re now enjoying a life-changing education through Islamic Relief. They are among hundreds of children with disabilities in the Chechen Republic that are reaching their potential thanks to specialist education, sports, and counselling provision.

A quality education unlocks a rich world of experience, skills and knowledge. It boosts social inclusion and wellbeing. It offers the chance to build a brighter future.

But in the Chechen Republic, education is often out of reach for children with sight or hearing impairments – especially if they’re poor.

The only two specialised educational institutions in the whole of Chechnya are heavily over-subscribed, with many more children needing their services than there are places at the schools. Unless their families can afford private tuition, children with disabilities miss out on schooling or lag behind their peers.

Jamilya, 13, is one of the children being left behind. Her visual impairment prevented her from attending mainstream school, and she says it also left her socially isolated.

“Usually, I don’t go out to play with other children. I cannot run and play with them, their games are not for me. I used to play only with my elder sister.”

Opportunities for children with sight or hearing impairments

Islamic Relief is bridging that gap for at least 400 children who are not in school. The latest in a series of schemes to boost opportunities for people with disabilities, our new project began in December.

Delivered in partnership with grassroots organisations, it serves children living with sight or hearing impairments in Grozny and rural areas.

We cover all transportation costs to ensure that no child has to stay away because they cannot pay. Through the project, six to 17-year olds receive free, regular braille or sign language literacy classes.

“I hope that one day I will be able to read books”

When Jamilya’s family heard about the Islamic Relief project, they got in touch right away and she soon began attending classes.

“I like these lessons,” says Jamilya, who lives in Urus-Martan. “I have already learnt many things. We are learning to read with our fingers, and I am happy when I can read some words. I hope that one day I will be able to read books.

“I am happy to have lessons with other children, I have made friends here. We have sports lessons here as well, where I can play with other children,” she adds. Islamic Relief provides tennis, football and cycling coaching several times a week at specialist facilities.

Jamilya reads Braille with her teacher Abuyzeed and her classmates.

Her teacher says she is a good student. Abuyzeed is blind, and so knows first-hand how important the project is for the children he works with.

“It is scary to imagine the future of a blind child who has no knowledge and who is not socialised into society. I teach them Braille, maths and music. Their studies should be comprehensive, because every piece of knowledge is important for these children.

“We also have to work hard with their parents,” he adds, explaining that some parents are so focused on caring for their child that they find it hard to believe that their child could one day live independently.

“Some parents do not believe that it is possible to teach a blind child. I try to convince them. I think I am the best proof.”

Counselling for children and their parents

Children and their guardians also receive counselling to boost their wellbeing and self-esteem. Ayshat Gaitamirova, whose six-year old son is hearing impaired, finds this invaluable.

“The psychologist often meets with our children and us. We parents also need the support because we are exhausted trying to cope,” she explains, adding that she had two miscarriages after her son was born.

“Muhammad is our only son and I will live for him.”

With no kindergartens catering for children who need special care, Muhammad has never gone to school. But now that looks set to change, says his mother.

“I cannot even find words to express my thankfulness to all those who support these classes. Muhammad has very much improved his knowledge. I want my son to attend mainstream school and improve his language skills. I will put all my effort into it.”

Ayshat Gaitamirova with her son, six-year old Muhammad.

Making communities more inclusive

Involving local faith leaders and the media, we are making communities more inclusive of children with disabilities. We are also pushing decision-makers to tackle the challenges facing children with disabilities.

Islamic Relief has been working in the Chechen Republic since 1994. The new project builds on our previous work to boost opportunities for disabled people, including outreach services for people with hearing impairments, and livelihoods support for individuals with visual impairments.

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