Together with his twin brother Pëllumb was born healthy. The boys brought great joy to their family. Because she lacked enough breast milk to sustain both boys, Anife, 47, was forced to send Pëllumb in the nearest hospital of the area of Dibra, Albania. She left him there for two weeks. Instead of coming back healthier, Pëllumb’s life was changed forever by a fever that damaged his brain and left him paralyzed.
Anife regrets taking him in the hospital and blames herself for his condition. “My mother-in-law died and I had to get back home and take care of many things,” she says. “[When I returned to] the hospital, I found my child sick. My understanding was that the nurses had not taken [proper] care of him,” she says.
Time has passed Pëllumb is now 16. He is very shy and struggles to be like others, even like his twin brother Kujtim, whose life is like that of most other teens: he goes to school, plays and has many friends. Pëllumb does not.
Pëllumb’s only wish is just to go to school. Unfortunately, he cannot. Pëllumb started the first grade by the age of 15, because of his disability to walk and speak normally. Two months ago after attempting to attend classes for the first time, he was forced to drop out when his classmates started to tease him and call him “different”.
Anife explains that for the short time her son was able to attend school, just some months, was like a light in the life of Pëllumb. “He was smiling more and feeling proud for learning something at school,” she says.
“I like school,” says Pëllumb, with difficulties speaking. “I like it to learn numbers and to learn to count,” he adds.
Although situation is grim, neither Pëllumb nor his mother have lost their hope.
Pëllumb is a registered child in World Vision’s Sponsorship programme. He has participated in the World Vision’s summer camps organized in the area of Dibra three times in three years. These camps were life-changing for Pëllumb, who confirms that there he found many friends and learned to paint his hand, and talk more confidently
In addition to working with Pëllumb and his family, World Vision is working closely with teachers, training them how to help children with disabilities in their schools by offering them tools and a professional manual, developed by World Vision Albania called: “I am among you, different and equal”. This manual was designed as an emergent need for teachers from all over Albania in response to their request on how to include children with disability in mainstream education.
To date, more than 300 teachers have been trained in 10 districts of Albania, 21 of them were from Dibra. During the month of April, World Vision will train round 120 additional teachers in the area of Dibra, including the teachers of the village where Pëllumb and his family live.
World Vision works through Inclusive education towards equal development opportunities for every child, and ensures that no child is ever excluded or made to feel different from other children living in his or her village or community. World Vision is supporting preschools and primary schools in order to enable them and offer appropriate programmes to the most vulnerable children; working with over 196 schools to help them achieve sustainable changes in teaching quality and inclusion.
To reach these children in many ways and as wide as possible, World Vision in partnership with Albanian NGOs Partnerë për Fëmijët and MEDPAK is implementing a two year project funded by the European Union, in which parents get empowered and teachers trained for a positive change in the lives of children like Pëllumb.
An estimated 48,840 children in Albania live with a “different ability” and a majority of them are outside of the educational system. The two-year project aims to change this situation and inspire an Albania where every child can access their right to education and pursue personal development.
In the near future, World Vision also in planning to conduct a national wide research to identify the prevalence, number of children with disability outside the school system as well as an analysis of the barriers which hinders the right to quality education for children like Pëllumb inside and outside the school system.
State Social Service states that there are 152,800 Persons with Disability;. Child Rights Observatory (2008) estimates that CWD represent 30% of this.World Vision, Study Report: “Assessing factors that contribute to the practical implementation of inclusive education”, Albania, March 2012, p. 7.