Human Rights in Ukraine. Website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
Children’s rights

Children learning together


On World Down Syndrome Day 2011, TV5 reported on the end of a four-year experiment in inclusive education for children with Down syndrome in pre-school centres. Its results have convinced officials to prepare a national programme. The Ministry of Education has promised in the course of a year to prepare a plan and begin implementing it. Civic activists call on the authorities to go even further, by creating mixed classes in schools.

Yehorka and Ulyana are hugging each other tight. They became friends immediately.  Both have Down syndrome, however do not stand out from their peers, with the same smile and just as unable to sit still and inquisitive as their peers.

Iryna Shcherbakova, mother of a child with Down syndrome recounts: “He has begun talking more. What neither I nor the teachers could teach him, he’s seen from how the other children do it and repeats it”.

The staff see how the little ones learn to eat by themselves, to dress themselves and speak. They stress though that the other children also benefit, changing before their eyes.

Lyubov Tarnopolska, teacher:  “There is modest progress in the right direction. These children with Down syndrome have big, kind hearts, and when they communicate with children from the group, they teach them to be kind”.

Around 500 children with Down syndrome are born in Ukraine each year. Their parents are forced to give up their jobs so as to help their children adapt. In the mixed groups at the kindergartens, this mission is taken on by psychologists, speech therapists and others working with the children. The teaching methodology was developed for them in the Bogomolets Medical University. They are now preparing recommendations for school teachers as well.

Nadiya Tertychna from the University explains that they are planning to describe how to prepare these children for school also. At present there has been little prepared, and there is only foreign experience.

Unfortunately, permission for children with Down syndrome to study in ordinary schools is required from the Ministry of Education.  Yury Petrenko from the civic organization “In Children’s Hands” who had enormous difficulty getting such methods introduced at pre-school level doubts that they will succeed.  He repeats some of the primitive responses heard in response to an invitation to the opening of their groups and says that lack of understanding was their greatest problem.

However in the four years that the programme has been underway at preschool level the Ministry has seen results and are prepared to send the little ones to school. Tamara Panasyuk who heads the Preschool Education Section of the relevant department within the Ministry says that this question is also being considered, though she talks not of inclusive education, but of classes being created for children with intellectual impediments 

Whether children with Down syndrome can cope with the school curriculum individually will be determined by psychologists. However, even if they give a firm “yes”, teachers still need to be trained and they warn that method plans and recommendations will not be enough.

From a report at:

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