How Education intersects with Intergenerational Adolescent Pregnancy in Brazil

This current event post is contributed by Kate. What is the media saying about children with special needs? Preview this new article and then contribute to the discussion questions posed. Thank you and enjoy!

Link to the article –

When looking over Vandyworld, I was immediately drawn to your visit to Brazil. I had the opportunity to visit Brazil for ten days during my fall semester in Argentina. If you left the States on the 21st, then we actually overlapped time in Rio without knowing it. I spent four days in Salvador and six in Rio de Janeiro. Rio is a dream. The mountains, the beach, the food, the people, the weather – I quickly fell in love. However, it is impossible to think of Rio without considering  a feature that dominates the city almost as much as the white beaches: the favelas. Looking out the window as our plane landed, I was stunned. It was an endless urban sea. There were miles and miles of houses stacked on top of each other that look like colorful postcard from a distance. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Anyone who has visited a favela, kept up with the news, or at least seen “City of God” can attest.
The sheer number of people living in such a small place poses problems. Then, extreme poverty, lack of property ownership, and a large drug trade come into the forefront. Not far behind, is the relationship between education and pregnancy. As you stated in the November 16th blog post, “Eve described that one of their primary goals was to increase the average age of first pregnancy in the favela. When the Center first began, Eve said that women in the favela typically became pregnant at age 14, and that they have shifted the average age to 21. She said they feel this is still too young, because young women will not have had the opportunity at age 21 to have completed college.”
The article found that the level of education in young women and men is an important factor in the repetition of adolescent fertility across generations. Poverty is perpetuated because pregnancy interrupts a woman’s schooling and reduces their chance of entering the job market. This applies specifically to Brazil. “Both women and men were more likely to have had an early pregnancy experience if their mother had had a child before age 20 (odds ratios, 2.0 and 2.3, respectively).” When young people have greater access to education, they also have improved opportunities to avoid early childbearing.
The AfroReggae Cultural Group in Vigário Geral and subsequently in other locations is the backbone that can be crucial in people living in the area’s lives. The social, musical, educational, and training programs are vital to the community, both in the unification of inhabitants and in the preservation of culture.
Some questions to think about…

  1. Education clearly makes a world of difference lowering the birth rate. Is this more effective when the source is internal or external? Can some of the largest favelas in Rio generate programs to address this problem? Where could funds come from?
  2. How could one address the juxtaposition of the favela to more developed areas of the city? Where does one begin to bridge the gap?
  3. With the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics quickly approaching, all eyes will be on Rio. Will these statistics (average age of childbirth is 21) hold up under a global stage of scrutiny?

Special Olympics in Uzbekistan

This current event post is contributed by Jenna. What is the media saying about children with special needs? Preview this new article and then contribute to the discussion questions posed. Thank you and enjoy!

Uzbekistan’s first Special Olympics challenges stigma against children with disabilities

This article discusses the first-ever National Special Olympics held in Uzbekistan in 2012. It was a very exciting step for the nation in moving towards eliminating the stigma associated with disabilities. It is also a demonstration of the Uzbekistan government’s commitment to supporting and protecting children with disabilities.

The article mentions that the number of registered children with disabilities in Uzbekistan has been increasing, with worsening economic conditions cited as a possible factor in the increase. The major infrastructure in place for children with special needs in Uzbekistan is institutionalization. However, a study showed that many of the children who are currently institutionalized could live with their families if the proper support systems existed. In 2005, the Ministry of Public Education issued a decree encouraging all education departments to mainstream children with disabilities.

I chose this article because it is a mini-success story that inspires optimism about a subject that can sometimes be upsetting. I am not surprised that Uzbekistan was so late to hold its own Special Olympics. Given the economic situation, that is not necessarily a priority for them. But I think the fact that they did take this step is indicative of a bigger movement within the country to increase support for children with special needs.

I also think that the current system of institutionalization in Uzbekistan poses some challenges for the future of this movement. The goal of improving the lives of children with special needs is theoretically consistent with the system of institutionalization, but there are some better alternatives that could accomplish this. I am particularly interested in hearing your thoughts on this controversial subject, as we have to be realistic in terms of what is feasible for this nation.

1.  The first-ever International Special Olympics was held in the United States in 1968. Why do you think it took so long for Uzbekistan to hold its own National Special Olympics?

2.  What are some ways you think the Uzbekistan government could continue to support children with special needs?

3.  What are some other reasons why the number of registered children with disabilities in Uzbekistan may be increasing?

4.  What are your thoughts on mainstreaming children with special needs into the public education system? When is it most effective? What are some of the risks?


Euthanasia for Children with Special Needs in Ghana?

This current event post is contributed by Sam and Raquel. What is the media saying about children with special needs? Preview this controversial article and then contribute to the discussion questions posed. Thank you and enjoy!

“The Fate of Children With Special Needs in Northern Ghana”

Posted by: Npong Francis Posted date: March 08, 2013

This article discusses the fate that society in Northern Ghana has chosen for their children born with special needs. Children born with deformities are usually killed shortly after birth because families don’t have the means to give them the extra care they need and many fear stigmatization by others. Surprisingly, the citizens of Ghana agree with this kind of treatment towards children with special needs. A woman from Ghana claimed, “We cannot take care of children with special needs or disabilities so the best option is to do away with such a child at birth.”  This woman was a victim of it herself, when her child was killed after he was born limbless.

This issue represents a greater problem with society in Ghana. The article says the people of Ghana call these children born with special needs “spirit children,” since they are considered impure or even evil. There are no records of the deaths of the “spirit children” since no one wants to report them. It is interesting to note that although no one seems to have an issue with the maltreatment of special education children, no one wants to report any cases of such killings either.

Northern Ghana is a poor, rural area that is far less developed than the south and lacks in educational resources. In order to bring about change, there has to be a change in resources, but additionally a change in the attitudes of the people. The society as a whole needs to start looking at children with special needs as real children too. Judging by the comments posted in response to the article, it appears that citizens are in fact moving towards a better Ghana, as one reader posted, “We at Emmanuel’s Dream.Org are raising money to build a school, adaptive therapy center and sports academy for children with disabilities, and to do advocacy to the community about the Gift these children can be.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. It is important to try to understand the perspective of another culture before passing judgment. What can we do to educate ourselves about this situation and try to see it through the eyes of someone from Ghana?
  2. If Ghana were to try to rid itself of this practice, what kind of systemic societal changes do you think would be necessary?
  3. This is an issue that many of us in the United States are not very aware of or have experienced first hand. What do you think we can do as concerned global citizens to help these children without imposing ourselves on Ghanean culture?
  4. What kind of programs can be used to help children with special needs in Ghana?






International Perspectives on Inclusion and Labels for Children with Disabilities

This post has been contributed by Natalie. What is the media saying about children with special needs? Please read her summary and respond to the questions to contribute to discussion. Thank you and enjoy!

Children with Special Rights in Reggio Emilia, Italy

For the past seven years, I have been teaching in schools in Massachusetts and California that take great inspiration from the municipal infant-toddler centers and preschools of Reggio-Emilia. As part of my graduate work at Tufts, I have worked as an assistant to Lella Gandini, US Liaison for the Reggio Emilia Approach to education.  While my specific research has focused on children and teachers as researchers and the Reggio Emilia Approach in public schools in the United States, I have also studied a great deal about inclusion in this small Italian city.

For this post, I have uploaded an article titled “The Inclusive Community” by Ivana Soncini, taken from the book, The Hundred Languages of Children by Lella Gandini, Carolyn Edwards, and George Forman.  In this article, Soncini describes her work as a Pedagogical Coordinator responsible for the inclusion of children with special rights in the municipal schools of Reggio Emilia.

According to Italian National Law (1977) children with disabilities are entitled to an inclusive education.  And, since then, the system has “eliminated the deficit model and has placed the primary focus on changing the nature of the educational environment to serve all children” (p.189).

Soncini writes:

“I believe that children with disabilities have the right to live in a school that allows them to intersubjectively construct a positive representation of self—a representation that is in continuous evolution… We have learned from the children with special rights…that emotion and cognition are tightly connected.  We have also learned, as I have described, to pay attention to other languages beyond the verbal…The children have motivated us…to analyze our own interpretation of the idea of change.  How do we interpret change?  Traditionally, change has been perceived as movement toward normality.  Historically, the goal was to bring a child with special rights as close to a state of normality as possible.  This idea of change focuses on the deficits of the child” (p.205)

Questions for Discussion:

1.  What are the political and educational implications of using “children with special rights” rather than “children with special needs”?
2.  According to Soncini’s articles, how would you describe the image of the “child with special rights” in Reggio Emilia?
3.  How does this image influence the way teachers support children with special rights?
4.  Does this article raise any questions in your own work with children?

HIV/AIDS Testing in Schools in South Africa

This current event post is contributed by Gabby. What is the media saying about children with special needs? Read this controversial piece about HIV and AIDS testing in schools in South Africa. Thank you and enjoy!

This article, although not specifically addressing children who are born with learning disabilities, considers the impact of HIV in South Africa’s public schools. Throughout the past decade South Africa has been struggling with controlling an HIV epidemic of unbelievable proportions; although the country was the last nation in Sub-Saharan Africa to be hit with the disease, a fragmented health care system under the Apartheid regime was inefficient in confining the spread of the virus. Thus, South Africa now possesses the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world (approximately 20%) and the number of individuals infected is increasing steadily. Various public health tactics have been implemented with little success, largely due to the failing economy and poor living conditions endured by the majority of civilians.

I chose this media source because it combines two topics which I am very passionate about: the educational system and public health. This article discusses the consequences of implementing mandatory HIV testing in schools throughout the country. The two main challenges of screening students discussed in this article are confidentiality and consent- students must be willing to be tested at school and their status must be kept private from their peers at school. If students test positive, it is explained how they will be provided with social support and treatment will be administered soon after diagnosis.
After initially skimming this article, I was immediately opposed to the idea of HIV testing in schools. I thought students should learn about the disease first in health class, and then opt to be tested once they become sexually active. A student’s education should be distinct from the healthcare they receive, and it is possible that knowing their status would only distract from their school experience and eradicate any motivation to succeed a child should possess in the classroom. However, I then began contemplating the severity of the HIV epidemic in South Africa. Adolescents largely resist being tested for STDs, and it is rare for a teenager living in a township to know their HIV status. I agree with the article that mandatory screening in schools would be a beneficial public health tactic. Although this idea seems so distinct from anything we experience in an American school, in South Africa this concept must be seriously considered, for millions of lives are at stake.
After you read this article, please take the time to consider the following questions:
1) After learning about the psychological and social development of children, do you think that kids as young as 12 are cognitively equipped to handle a positive diagnosis of HIV? In what ways will knowing their HIV status influence a student’s performance in the classroom?
2) In the United States, various STDs are serious public health concerns in the student age population. How do you think American students and parents would react to the implementation of mandatory STD testing? How would you personally respond?
3) While reviewing previous posts in this blog, I was surprised to see images of Chinese kindergarten students being checked for signs of sickness before permitted entrance into the Lan Xi Road School. As a public health measure in schools, nurses have been provided the authority to disallow any sick student from attending school that day. In what ways does this policy differ from the strategy intended for South African schools? Is one or the other more moral, are both acceptable, or rather are both measures unethical?