Lily is a nine-year-old girl from northwest Syria who has Down’s syndrome. Like many other children with disabilities in northwest Syria, Lily missed out on her early school years due to a lack of accessible classrooms and trained teachers. This experience was exacerbated by conflict and instability which made even the most basic services hard to reach.
Lily’s parents were determined to do everything they could to further her education and, a year ago, decided to search for a place where their daughter could make friends, have adventures, and live a meaningful life. Her mother enrolled her in a nearby centre for children with disabilities but it turned out to be inadequately equipped and failed to meet Lily’s specialised mental health needs or protect her from harm, with Lily exhibiting signs of anti-social behaviour.
Lily’s mother refused to give up hope of finding a suitable school where her daughter would be safe and receive the individualised care she needed. A few weeks later, she learned about a centre which provides inclusive education and quality support for children with disabilities operated by the Manahel Programme, which provides education to primary school-aged children.
The next day, Lily’s mother visited the Manahel-supported special education centre to have a look around before bringing Lily. Manahel supports 157 schools with technical delivery including literacy and numeracy, psychosocial support, and safeguarding support. Within these schools, the programme has established 34 specialised education centres to help the future integration of students, supporting a total of 182 children (51% female). Manahel has trained several teachers on inclusive education concepts and tools, mental health promotion, and the identification of psychological, social, and behavioural concerns.
Lily’s mother described Lily’s requirements and the negative experiences she had received at the other centre. The special education teacher at Manahel, who has many years of experience and has cared for dozens of children with similar needs, reassured Lily’s mother by explaining the support programme and her background in special education. The teacher also described Manahel’s integration approach and how she would create an individualised education plan for Lily to help her transition into mainstream classes. Lily’s mother was comforted by the discussion and felt that she had finally found an environment where Lily could thrive.
The teacher spent a few days with Lily to help her settle in and get to know her personalised needs after her arrival. She developed an Individual Education Plan for Lily, detailing her specific requirements and the services that the school would offer to meet them. This plan outlined a series of objectives designed to help Lily build confidence and positive social habits with her peers.