One of the projects that we are sponsoring this year for our Lent Call is the Al Sharooq school for the Blind. This beautiful, peaceful, purpose built school is a haven of positivity and creative endeavour. Here Ruba Mukarke, the Principal, of the school gives us some information about the history of the school and the work that they are doing.
Half of the group on the Diocesan Pilgrimage were able to visit Al Sharooq and hear about how things were progressing. It was a wonderful and very moving experience to see the children and to hear about the hopes that the staff have for them. We were able to see some of them working in occupational therapy learning how to negotiate objects with limited or no sight and see how some of those children with very complex needs are helped to learn how to do things through feel.
It is extraordinary to see the progress that they make with patient one to one attention. It is very moving but it is very expensive not only in terms of staff time and cost but in terms of the emotional demands made on the staff.
When the Dean and I visited Al Sharooq we had meet Jabar – his meeting with the Dean is one of the images on the Lent Call Week 2 project sheet here. It was lovely to see him again and to know that he had made so much progress that he was now in year 1 and not in the special education unit anymore.
His story is so sad. He was sitting next to his twin brother in class. We hadn’t known that he had a twin last time we visited. His twin was so much smaller than Jabar. Both have now turned 10 and this was the first real education that they had had. Jabar’s twin does not have the same complex needs as Jabar as he is not deaf as well as visually impaired. Ruba tells us that he wants to be a lawyer and there is no reason why he could not be. Jabar’s lack of communication skills will hold him back, however – even though he is bright and making good progress – for he has only three senses to work with instead of five. Even so I was amazed by the difference in him because 18 months on it is clear that he can now communicate more. He instantly knew that Ruba had come into the room and could count out lolly sticks for her – just over a year ago he couldn’t really communicate at all and had few social skills but now he was clearly growing in confidence and ability. Ruba says that they will try to keep the boys together in class as they help and support each other.
But it was very sad to hear that they have further difficulties to cope with as their mother, who was well known to all the teachers, had died as a result of cancer. The staff have managed to find another family member to have them at weekends but their situation is precarious as the family member needs help to care for them as she has few resources. Ruba said these boys had become, more than any of the others, the staff’s children and that they knew that they would need to care for them and look out for them for many years to come.
Such stories multiplied as there were other brothers and sisters and indeed another set of twins in the school. The other set of twins – a boy and a girl – both have sight problems but the little girl has really complex needs and, whilst she lives at Al Sharooq, attends a school that can do more for her during the day. Before they had been in the school, although they had lived in the same house they had not known each other.
The toll that the emotional, physical and educational needs of the children takes on the staff is huge, especially on the Principal. Please pray for them and give generously that they may continue to provide for the needs of these very special and previously neglected children.