News Society, 04/09/2017

When Compassion Heals: Inclusivity at Kharkiv Schools

Since September 1 Kharkiv children with disabilities have come to ordinary schools within new inclusivity program.

Now every city district has a “basic school” to teach children with special needs. The classes with special children have up to 20 students including two children with disability or disorder.

“My daughter is happy to come to an ordinary school, to study with other children in one room. I noticed that she even started pronouncing some sentences lately!” says Nadiia Teslia, whose daughter is autistic. She adds that isolation of such children in special medical or educational institutions is certainly harmful, and being among their peers has multiple positive effects.

In three schools of three different Kharkiv districts, the classes for children with special needs have been launched. According to the director of the Department of Education Olha Demenko the school’s management introduced necessary changes in schools, purchased special furniture and equipment. The lessons are held by a teacher and a tutor, who took a special training course. After the classes, the assigned specialists work with the children. For example, a speech therapist trains children with speech disorder.

“For us, no huge changes have come. We have been teaching children with autism and different mental disorders for four years already. About 10% of our students, one or two in each class 12 are kids with special needs”, says Yulia Pavichenko, the principal of MIR private lyceum.

Last year the lyceum’s principal together with “Ranok” publishing house financed the education of wheelchair-bound 15-year-old Dariia Boitsova, who came to Kharkiv from Alchevsk, a town on the occupied part of  Luhansk region. Taxi to school was also paid for by a charity. Before that Dariia did not have an opportunity to study for two years and had to “catch up” with the school program.

“She did very well, made a great progress in her studies and we are very happy for her!” says Yulia Pavichenko. “The greatest thing is that Dariia started doing her first steps in school!”

This year the girl went to the ninth grade. She plans to have a good job and travel in the future.

Yulia Pavichenko is convinced the main purpose of inclusive education is to socialize the children, to give an opportunity to communicate with their peers and to motivate them. And their classmates, in their turn, would benefit from the communication by becoming more compassionate. The principal hopes to inspire her colleagues from other schools to admit children with special needs more willingly.

Reference. There are almost 2.5 thousand children with special needs in Kharkiv and 27 “basic schools” for inclusive education. 1144 disabled children, 31 of which are in wheelchairs, study in 184 secondary schools. According to the decision of the Cabinet of Ministers, from 2017 to 2022 all the children with special needs studying at specialized boarding schools will be admitted to ordinary schools.


Text: Olena Sokolynska

Photos: MIR lyceum, MediaPort