Let us introduce 17-year-old Victoria. She attends a high school with advanced foreign language studies. Тhe barriers she faces in education are related to her diagnoses but they do not stop Viktoria from studying her favorite subjects and expanding her knowledge. That’s what Vicky’s plans for the future are all about.
See how school and inclusion may look like through the eyes of a young person:
Do you already have your personal goals that you have set in life?
Of course I have goals and dreams. I have already achieved some of them, but I will not stop.
I dream of successfully graduating from school. I want to continue at university and do what I always wanted to do – to become a teacher. I think education is an important part of our life. Other important things in life that I also follow are to help others, to prepare them for the future, to show them the right path. And being a teacher means doing all three.
What do you like most about school?
It’s not easy to go to school these days. The content is very difficult. Every day it accumulates more and more information and you do not have time to absorb everything. It’s tiring. And almost all of my classmates (95%) are making it harder: they show disrespect, are noisy, and do not consider others.
But you don’t have to follow the crowd. You can stand-alone. So I try to study, be careful and to follow my dreams.
The thing I like most at school is chatting with my friends and the time spent with them. I also like to show what I’m capable of.
What motivates you in learning?
I like going to school because I get away from my world for a bit. At school, I am with my peers. Еven if I’m sad or not in a good mood, I immerse myself in the atmosphere and forget about everything bad. There’s always something going on, we’re never bored. The conversations, the jokes, everything… It’s just fun, nice and you never feel alone.
I think about my future. This motivates me not to give up. No matter how hard it is, I keep learning. Sometimes it happens that I wish I could stay at home and do nothing. But then I remember that life goes on after school. And school prepares you for this future life.
Apart from English and History, I like Literature. It actually can teach us a lot if we are able to look into it. I love, as you must have already understood, to immerse myself in different worlds. I am drawn to stories of the old days when everything was different. The people, the city, the nature – it has nothing to do with today’s world at all. I even wish I could travel back to that time. It is not that easy nor nice to be a child of the 21st century.
In the Multi-IN Manual for pupils, we talk about learning difficulties in children with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. Have you ever met such learning difficulties in your experience at school?
If there’s a will, there’s a way. I follow this principle and I do not give up my education. Everyone has the right to education, no matter what they are. I do pretty well with the study material.
Another issue is that the schools in Bulgaria do not have the settings we need. It’s like they are not meant for disabled kids. We need changes because as I said, we are all human. Children with spina bifida and hydrocephalus deserve to be educated just like everyone else.
Are there subjects in school that you find too difficult? How do you overcome these difficulties?
The subjects I find difficult are Physics, Chemistry and Math. I won’t deal with them after school but the education system requires their study. So I study and I try to remember whatever I can. And I try to do my best, even though they are not my strength.
Do you need support at school and who helps you?
My classmates help me at school.
First of all – the school backpack. We have so many textbooks, and it is terribly heavy. There is no point in all the books that are purchased. However, teachers require them. For “ordinary kids” the backpack is heavy so can you imagine how disabled pupils feel? That’s why someone else always carries my backpack.
Climbing the stairs is also an issue. They are steep and there are no handrails. This makes the stairs dangerous, even impossible to use. I need help for this as well.
And that actually makes me dependent on others. If anything changes, I believe I won’t be anymore.
What would you change about the school to make it a better place for all students?
A good option would be to have fewer textbooks. We don’t need all of them. The material in them is a lot. Some topics can be removed or shortened as an alternative.
In addition, building safe stairs with handrails.
Moreover, moving around school’s classrooms is a useless ramble. Some students face difficulties in moving around, especially to another floor. There is no point in them…