Tibetan disABILITY

Location Tibetan settlements, north India
Type Education and health
Amount £5,500

“Children with disabilities are one of the most marginalised and excluded groups in respect of education” – United Nations report, 2011

Tibetan Ability is a charity organisation based in Dharamsala which focuses on providing services for Tibetan people with disabilities. They have been established for many years in Dharamsala providing mobility aids to local Tibetans.

In recent years they have expanded their work to focus on inclusive education. This means getting – and keeping – Tibetan children with special needs into mainstream Tibetan schools.

Sadly, the current situation is such that the vast majority of children with special needs never complete their full schooling. Most drop out early and end up living with their families, unable to support themselves to live independent lives.

Tibetan schools in India have a policy of inclusive education and they do admit students with disabilities but the reality is that schools are ill-equipped to provide any level of specialised education. Alongside this, the Tibetan community is largely uninformed about special needs and many people simply do not realise that children with special needs can lead fulfilling lives.

Tibetan Ability are working to break down some of these barriers and we are proud to be able to support their wonderful, innovative work.

disABILITY Resource Centre
Following on from last year’s Inclusive Education project, Tibetan Ability have now established a resource centre. This centre will provide the Tibetan community with the resources, training, advice and practical support they need to ensure their children get the best education possible.

The new centre in Dharamsala will be available to children with special needs, their families, friends, teachers and the wider community. Over the course of the next two years, the centre staff will:

  • Train and support schools and teachers – creating a more appropriate curriculum for children with special needs.
  • Run awareness raising programmes to educate the wider community about special needs.
  • Provide early intervention service for children under six to help them learn basic skills – such as walking, eating and dressing themselves. This will help them be as independent as possible at an early age.
  • Provide physiotherapy for children with disabilities in their homes and at the centre.
  • Advise on coping methods, benefits and rights for families of children with disabilities.
  • Research and campaigning to get Department of Education and schools to improve their policies and accessibility for children with special needs.

Inclusive Education pilot project
Last year we funded a pilot study to assess the problems involved in helping Tibetan children with special complete their education.

The Tibetan Ability team first conducted a survey to see how many children were in or out of school. They then met with families to discuss the barriers they face in keeping their children in school. The team were able to offer advice on the benefits available to them from the Indian government and the importance of helping their child get an education.

Training workshops were held at five schools, providing training in basic skills and alternative learning methods to over 100 teachers.

The project also included an awareness raising programme in schools and in four Tibetan settlements. This helped whole communities, teachers, and students better understand their classmates’ needs and introduced the idea of inclusive education to many who had never even heard of it.

Feedback from the pilot project was very positive with many schools, teachers and families expressing a desire to have more support and training going forwards. A Tibetan disability resource centre has now been established to do just that (see above).

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