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Special Report | An Inclusive Education at the International School of Uganda – By Simon Gillespie

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Posted December 23, 2021 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Education ~ 3,041 views

     


All students are individuals, and all students can learn…When you interact with your children, you can see similarities and differences.  Comparisons between yourself as a parent, and your child are often made – “she gets her math skills from her mom” or “he looks just like his dad.”  We often make comments – “can’t you be more like your brother”, but more often, we recognize that each of our children is unique, has their own strengths, talents, passions, and differences.  At times these differences can be a challenge to learning, and therefore, we must understand how best to support each child on their individual learning journ

At the International School of Uganda, we come together as a whole school, a community of learners, to develop a sense of belonging for everyone.  Accepting each of our unique identities promotes the development of international mindedness, agentic learning, and responsible citizenship.  We support, guide, and empower the community throughout the journey of inclusion and lifelong learning.  As a community, we understand that everyone can learn and reach their full potential given access and ownership.  We accept the responsibility for educating and enabling students, staff, and parents in realizing our philosophy.  We strive to remove the barriers to an inclusive education and provide all learners with experiences that cultivate agency, embrace partnership, and nurture strengths.

How do we create this culture of inclusion?  Based on our beliefs, we ensure that we have the resources and professional learning in place for all of our educators.  Resources include trained learning support teachers, assistant teachers, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist, access to an educational psychologist, assistive technologies, and access to high quality resources, training and workshops held by experts around the world.  We believe all teachers are teachers of all children.  We have a culture of collaboration so that when planning, teachers are able to create learning experiences that are differentiated and personalized to support each child where they are at on their journey.

At admissions we seek to know the individual child that is enrolling at ISU.  We gather as much data and information, not to decide whether to admit or not, but to make sure we have the best program possible and the resources in place.  Whether a child has mild, moderate, intensive learning needs, or is highly able, we need to have a strong understanding of the child’s strengths and difficulties so that we can put the right support in place to appropriately challenge the child and help them to grow and achieve their best.

To further live our philosophy of inclusion we have had to adapt to our environment.  If you have been to our campus you know it is a beautiful 33-acre oasis of green and nature with state of the art science labs, a new arts center and theater space, sports facilities and learning spaces that are developmentally appropriate at each grade level.  We are also on a hill and have many stairs.  How did we adapt when a child applied who uses a wheelchair?  We created new pathways throughout the campus with ramps to allow access.  This continues to be a journey, but our attitude is to make it work, so that all children can access learning and be a part of our community.

A final way we are demonstrating our commitment to all individuals is through our hiring practices.  Recently we partnered with the Angel Center in Wakiso, an organization committed to supporting individuals with down syndrome and cognitive delays.  They work to educate children, and to also support adults with skill development to help them gain independence, and ideally employment.  The challenge has been finding organizations that will rise to the challenge of including all individuals and giving opportunities to those who may not otherwise be considered.  We now have two support staff with down syndrome who are exceptional employees and demonstrate to our students and to our community that we believe everyone can be a contributing member of society.

Our journey towards inclusion continues at ISU.  We are proud that we recognize differences, and that all children can be successful.  Learn more about our programs and the dynamic learning environment by visiting our website at www.isu.ac.ug.

Simon Gillespie, Ed.D. is the Head of School at International School of Uganda an International Baccalaureate World School.  Simon has been a leader of international schools in Germany, Philippines, and most recently the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Simon is a co-director of the Next Frontier Inclusion organization, supporting international schools to be inclusive of all students regardless of their learning style and challenges.  He looks forward to continuing to connect with the educational community in Kampala and supporting the development of a strong learning environment for our students.


About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

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