Mario Monteiro and his best friend at Machava A school in Matola, Mozambique. | © Screen Imagem / HI
Mario Monteiro is a young man who lives in Mozambique. At school, he used to be mocked and shunned, but since HI intervened, he has made friends and can pursue his dreams.
Mario Rui Monteiro has a physical disability and needs a wheelchair to move around. The young man went to Machava A primary school in Matola, a suburb of Maputo. Unfortunately, the discrimination and obstacles he encountered forced him to drop out of school.
“A long time ago, when I was studying in my first year, I asked to go to the toilet. My teacher went with me. But while she was carrying me, we both fell down and hurt ourselves. When she got up, she told me to get the person who was looking after me to come and fetch me. She threw me out of the classroom, saying that this school was not for me and that I had to go home. When my mother went to the school the next day, the headmistress confirmed that I was no longer allowed to go to lessons, so I had to stop going to school.”
Thanks to the help of a local association, Mario was finally able to resume his education at the same school. But the young man’s suffering was far from over. The other pupils laughed at him and bullied him, refusing to help him. That’s when Mario met HI via the HELASIA project, which was working to make schools more inclusive.
“HI came to my school: they helped me, supported me. When I told them what I was going through, they discussed it with the headmistress and the teachers to help me put a stop to it all,” recalls Mario.
The HELASIA project was rolled out in Maputo and Matola to help children with disabilities access education. To this end, HI has identified and supported children with disabilities and their families, trained peer educators – children and young people who educate their peers about disability and inclusion – and distributed assistive devices such as wheelchairs, prostheses or glasses. The association has also trained around 400 teachers in inclusive education and has built ramps, making it easier for pupils in wheelchairs to move around their school.
“Before, there were no ramps at school and I often fell over. Now that there are ramps, I can play in some parts of the school and yard. Before, I had no friends because everyone laughed at me. Today, I have friends: I even have a best friend who is in the same class as me and helps me get home. He helps me go to the toilet every day and we play games with the other pupils,” explains Mario.
Thanks to these changes, Mario can finally enjoy his studies. He now dreams of becoming a lawyer so that he can champion all the children who need help.
The HELASIA project (Health, Education and Livelihoods in Africa, a Sustainable Inclusion Approach) was funded by NORAD. It was rolled out by HI between 2020 and June 2023 in five countries: Benin, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique and Rwanda. It has empowered 1,833 children with disabilities, trained 1,664 teachers in inclusive-education practices, and provided tailor-made assistance for 389 children with disabilities in 74 schools. Furthermore, 172 local disabled people’s organisations have been supported and strengthened.