1. SPECIAL EDUCATION AND REHABILITATION PROFILE
Disability in the Seychelles:
The incidence and prevalence of disability among children in the Seychelles are thoroughly documented in a report entitled Nou Bane Zanfans: Children of the Seychelles, prepared as a result of a project directed by two Peace Corps Volunteers for the 1979 International Year of the Child.
The project surveyed virtually all of the 24,500 children residing on the main island of the Seychelles. The following data are taken directly from the report:
5% of all children have physical impairments (1,100) 8% are in poor general health (2,000) 17% of those aged 1-4 are malnourished (1,100)
The following disability distribution was reported:
Of children who are not attending school, 36% of those surveyed gave "handicapped" as the reason. Twenty-one percent of all disabled children surveyed did not attend school (N:1,100). Many with slight or non-apparent disabilities leave school because of a lack of special services available to them.
Although in the past there have been few resources specifically addressing the needs of disabled persons in the Seychelles, a wide variety of new programs, facilities, and efforts are being developed at this time. For example, an "At Risk Register" was developed to begin identifying handicapped and disadvantaged children for the purpose of bringing available resources to their assistance. The report cited above, Children of the Seychelles, contains many details on the distribution of handicapping conditions and could serve as a valuable document for future planning.
The Seychelles Children's Society was formed by the Seychellois in 1970. It is funded by private donations, fund-raising activities and moderate government support. The Society provides the following services: Day Care Centers for pre-school children, a Family Advice Center, a 'Save the Children' fund, and, a school for the handicapped.
The School for the Exceptional Child, created by a Peace Corps Volunteer, has been operating for several years and a Rehabilitation Centreis now under construction. The Seychelles Children's Society is the prime supporter of all these efforts.
The North East Point project currently plans to provide services in a Home for Handicapped Children next to the Handicapped Centre. There are plans to erect 30 houses for handicapped adults as well. Christoffel Blinden Mission is considering partial aid to the project, whose services will extend to blind persons as well as those with other impairments.
A Cheshire Home for orthopedically handicapped persons was built and is directed by a South African occupational therapist who emigrated to the Seychelles.
The Teacher's Training College now offers specialized courses in special education and several Seychellois citizens have received advanced training in England and France. The immediate future will likely see many advances in services to disabled children and adults.
II. PEACE CORPS ROLE IN SPECIAL EDUCATION AND REHABILITATION
The Peace Corps has had only a few specialized volunteers in special education and rehabilitation in the Seychelles. The focus here will be primarily on the activities of those volunteers, who have helped create changes in an area that was apparently ready for such change.
Prior to the arrival in 1975 of two Peace Corps Volunteers (an occupational therapist and a special educator), special education programs were still in the initial stages of development in the Seychelles. The Seychelles Children's Society originally requested special education volunteers through the Ministry of Education in the mid-1970s. The two volunteers assigned to this project were among the first ten volunteers in the Seychelles. Peace Corps Volunteers preceeding them had worked in agriculture, physical education and other assignments specifically matched to skills. Until recently, all Peace Corps Volunteers in the Seychelles worked under the Peace Corps/Kenya Director with only minimal supervision or staff support. The volunteers viewed this physical distance in a positive way, as it allowed them to develop their programs and solve their problems independently.
When the two volunteers began their project, they were given a list of 99 disabled children and asked to create a program. The local Save the Children Federation, described as having an excellent program, donated a trailer on its grounds for the volunteers' use. In coordination with the Seychelles' Children's Society, the volunteers began to plan the project. At the onset of their assignment, the special educator initiated classes for deaf children while the occupational therapist isolated cases where children needed medical attention. The range of their activities broadened to include some of the following:
• Parent and Teacher Training: In their first months of work, the two volunteers went on home visits, talked to parents, and diagnosed special problems of children. They were also asked to give classes at the Teacher's College on issues relating to children with special needs. Their reception at the College was enthusiastic, with students often traveling long distances to attend the daily classes.
• Medical Networking for Surgery: The volunteers developed contacts with doctors and raised funds in order to make surgery possible for children in need. Many successful surgeries were performed. For example, a boy with a spinal cord tumor went to Kenya to be helped by the "Flying Doctors"; a girl with an enlarged tongue received followup surgery in Kenya; and a child with a pituitary tumor also traveled to Africa for medical attention. Volunteers made contact with heart surgeon Marius Barnard who went to the Seychelles and performed heart surgery on the children at no charge.
• Sheltered Workshops: After the Rotary Club of the Seychelles built a sheltered workshop for handicapped persons with funds that the Peace Corps helped to raise, the volunteers became involved in crafts production. The workshop was built with a store front where hand-crafted products were sold. A schedule was developed whereby the children would receive special education classes part of the day with one volunteer, and then attend the sheltered workshop to work with the other volunteer, improving such skills as bamboo-craft production and sewing. The children received modest payment for the products sold. As the number of children participating in the workshop increased, the occupational therapist reports that she felt like the "Pied Piper".
Until this point, the volunteers were working under the Department of Education. When they moved to this new building, they were transferred to the Cooperatives Society, an agency of the Department of Agriculture. This move was viewed by the volunteers as appropriate because they now had a shop and needed marketing experience.
• Counterpart Training: The volunteers trained a local 18 year-old hearing-impaired artist to direct the workshop. The youth specialized in batiques and was taken on as an apprentice. Many local volunteers were involved in the efforts, several of them disabled. According to the former Peace Corps Volunteers, the counterpart training arrangements were excellent and when they terminated their services, numerous new activities were left in the hands of capable Seychellois who have continued to develop the programs.
• Special Olympics: The volunteers also developed a Special Olympics program for mentally retarded children with assistance from Eunice Kennedy Shriver and the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation.
The occupational therapist left the Seychelles in 1976 and the special educator stayed on until 1978. A revolution in 1977 created changes in the government, but efforts in special education are receiving support and attention from the new government. There are currently two volunteers working in special education assignments in the Seychelles, one as a sports coordinator for a Rehabilitation Centre (the national coordinating institution for the handicapped), and the other as an occupational therapist at the Les Cannels Psychiatric Hospital.
Peace Corps/Seychelles is interested in participating in activities planned for the 1981 International Year of Disabled Persons. Current volunteers have been working informally with disabled persons after school and on weekends preparing activities for the IYDP.
III. SUMMARY COMMENTS
The Seychelles experience in special education and rehabilitation has been successful and unique. The appropriateness of the "fit" of Peace Corps resources to host country expressed needs stands out as the major determinant of this success in our view. A small number of volunteers have apparently helped transform limited available services and opportunities for disabled persons into a dynamic and thriving range of new programs and resources in only five years. The small size of the island and the readiness of the people of the country to develop new resources had much to do with this success, but it is still evident that a small group of Peace Corps workers dramatically accelerated this process of change.
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