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Transforming education for hundreds of children and young adults with deafblindness in Bangladesh

20 April 2021

Today is World Creativity and Innovation Day (April 21), which raises awareness of the role of creativity and innovation in all aspects of human development, and how innovation is essential for economic growth and creating opportunities for all.

At Sense International, creating opportunities for all, and particularly for people with deafblindness/ multi-sensory impairments (MSI), is vital and at the heart of our programmes.

One example of this is our innovative and life-changing inclusive education and vocational programme in Bangladesh, which supports children and young adults with deafblindness/ MSI to learn at home and at school, and we’re delighted to share some recent updates from this programme.

Transforming education in Bangladesh

The three-year programme launched in July 2018 and has since supported 514 children and young people with deafblindness/ MSI, an increase on the original target of 450. The programme has also provided training for 906 parents and caregivers to support children and young people to learn.

The programme was funded by Sense International’s My Turn to Learn appeal, thanks to the generous support of the British public and the UK Government, which matched all public donations made between October 2017 and January 2018.

Now, Sense International is launching three new videos which show the programme’s impact. The videos were produced as part of the My Turn to Learn appeal and feature Afsana and Humayra, two girls with deafblindness, who have been supported by the programme. Watch all three videos.

Continued support during COVID-19

Through local partner, the Centre for Disability in Development (CDD) in Bangladesh, Sense International’s programme is providing inclusive education and vocational opportunities in Bangladesh by:

  • Supporting children with deafblindness/ MSI to learn at home and in mainstream schools
  • Providing community-based support and training for families and caregivers
  • Training teachers in mainstream schools to include and support children with deafblindness/ MSI
  • Providing evidence and training on inclusive education for the local government in Bangladesh

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, education in Bangladesh has been impacted by social distancing measures and schools are still currently closed. The local government has declared an ‘auto-promotion’ system for schools in response to disruption caused by lockdown, which means children don’t need to sit exams to progress to the next grade.

Sense International’s team in Bangladesh is continuing to support children and young people with deafblindness/ MSI and their families, both remotely and in person while maintaining social distancing measures, so that when the schools do re-open children are ready to start back.

Helping children like Afsana and Humayra

A woman sitting next to a young girl. They're using sign language to communicate with each other.

Afsana's story

Fourteen-year-old Afsana was born with partial deafblindness and a learning disability. She was identified by field educators three years ago who provided training for her parents to help with her daily living activities and pre-schooling.

An individual education plan was made for Afsana and her field educator taught her the Bangla and English alphabets and rhymes. Gradually, she was ready to join a local primary school.

Afsana’s mother, Laili, said: “When Afsana was little she couldn’t walk or talk. When we got to know the field educators, they started coming to us, giving her physical therapy and teaching us how to help Afsana do the exercises.”

Afsana’s father, Mohammed, said: “We always did what they suggested to us for Afsana’s sake. And it worked. My daughter is a lot better now.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Afsana’s school closed and she has remained at home with her family, whose financial situation worsened as her father’s work was affected by lockdown rules. Afsana was unable to do online learning at home and the social isolation and change in routine affected her behaviour.

Since then, field educators have been regularly visiting the family to provide support and information about how to keep safe during the pandemic. Afsana started wearing masks and inspired her family to do the same.

Sense International supported Afsana’s family with emergency funding to buy food, money and hygiene kits. Schools in Bangladesh are still closed but Afsana is looking forward to her school reopening and being able to continue her education.

Watch Afsana’s video.

A young girl standing up behind her desk in a classroom reading from a book. The teacher is pointing to the book.

Humayra's story

Nine-year-old Humayra has deafblindness and epilepsy and lives with her mother and grandparents. She has been supported by Sense International’s work in Bangladesh since being identified through our sight and hearing screening. She was supported at home to prepare her to attend a mainstream school, which she joined in early 2019.

Humayra’s grandmother said: “We knew that Humayra was disabled, but we were not sure of the problem. When CDD [Sense International’s local partner] came to us we found out that she was hearing impaired. Now she takes showers, puts clothes on, brushes her teeth and studies. She does it all by herself.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Humayra’s family has experienced uncertainty and financial difficulties, and Humayra has been affected by the change in routine and her school being closed.

Sense International has provided the family with emergency funding for food and medicine. Humayra’s field educator has been supporting her with daily activities and her education. She is very excited to meet her teachers again when her school reopens.

Watch Humayra’s video. 

Find out more information about Sense International’s work in Bangladesh.

First published: Tuesday 18 June 2013
Last updated: Friday 6 December 2019