A SUSTAINABLE society ensures that everybody’s voice is heard and that government can listen and respond. This is not the case for one of the most vulnerable communities — children with disabilities.
In Ireland, there are 30,000 children with disabilities on the community health waiting list.
Similarly, in South Africa, children with disabilities cannot access services that non-disabled children enjoy. Children with disabilities from low socio-economic backgrounds lose out on opportunities to learn, socialise, and develop their potential because of limited service delivery in rural areas.
With government provision inadequate to meet the needs of the community, individuals or groups fill the gap and provide for those that need it most. An example of this selfless vocation can be seen in the work of Mrs Glennie Marubini, at the Light Centre in the community of Krugersdrop in South Africa.
To address the needs of children with disabilities from low-income households, the Light Centre provides a 24/7 care facility for children with severe disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, hydrocephaly and paraplegia.
Due to complex social and economic factors, some families cannot provide or care for their own. It is in these instances that the Light Centre supports parents who are unable to provide for the complex care needs of their family member. As such, the Light Centre guarantees the protection, health, and well-being of the child.
Unfortunately, funding can be difficult to secure for private non-profit organisations like the Light Centre. These centres are heavily dependent on donations and need equipment to provide sensory development experiences and learning opportunities to children who have disabilities.
The transition-year group at Scoil Mhuire, Kanturk, has joined up with a technology education team from the School of Education at the University of Limerick, which is led by Dr Nicolaas Blom and Dr Donal Canty, to design and create devices that can support the sensory development and learning needs of children at the Light Centre.
The belief is that all students are able to bring about positive change in their environment by using their creative and critical-thinking abilities. The technology subjects provide students with opportunities to investigate real-world problems and design and make solutions that can bring about positive change. The transition-year programme in Scoil Mhuire is an excellent opportunity for its students to learn through a project-based pedagogical approach in the classroom. The Light Centre cultivates and utilises the imagination and talents of the pupils to make a positive change in the lives of those less fortunate.
In recent weeks, the UL team, comprised of Dr Nicolaas Blom, Dr Donal Canty, Sean O’Connor, Maria McCarthy and Paddy Rowsome, introduced the Light Centre project to the transition-year students in Scoil Mhuire.
Dr Blom, who is South African, led a Live MS Teams interview with Glennie Marubini, the director of the Light Centre, to help the TY students get a first-hand insight into the needs of the children and the work that is being done to help support them and their families.
Some students said,“We are excited to be a part of the Light Centre project, where we can help people like Glenny and the children.”
Students also said:
“I was very sad to know that there are children in the world that are neglected. I am very happy to make a difference for them, if I can.”
The TY students also asked Glenny: “What do the children at the Light Centre enjoy the most?” and “What is your dream for the Light Centre and the children?”
Following the interview with Glenny, Belinda Murphy led a session where students thought deeply about their involvement in the project and the opportunity it provided to begin to address inequality and social justice.
Dr Donal Canty said:
“It is wonderful to see the level of empathy the TY students had for the children of the Light Centre and the buzz of enthusiasm and excitement that they have as they begin to design and create devices/artefacts that will enhance the lives of the children”.
In true Scoil Mhuire style, the TY students have already taken the initiative in helping the Light Centre by raising more than €3,000, which will be used to enhance the lives and well-being of the children.
Mr Crotty and the transition-year group are due to start designing and making devices for the children of the Light Centre from mid-November and hope to ship them out to South Africa in the spring.
This project is a great example of how an integrated TY curriculum can build on the key skills from junior cycle and create change and authentic learning experiences for all involved.
Well done to the group and we look forward to updates on the project in the months ahead.
Scoil Mhuire principal, Denis Keating, congratulated transition-year students and the technology department on this latest collaboration with the University of Limerick.
“This project reflects on the many core values that we promote in Scoil Mhuire Kanturk, such as care and empathy towards the disadvantaged in society, while, at the same time, seeking high quality in teaching and learning, supported by the most up to date technology,” he said.
Mr Keating added that he is “looking forward to seeing the innovative solutions to come from this project to assist the Light Centre and the children in the community of Krugersdrop in South Africa”.