“I especially remember my delight getting a big cuddle from a child who had been initially very opposed to being in a class but in the end she used to wait outside the door hoping it was her turn to do some one to one work with me.”

Fran Andrews worked for a year as a Special Education Advisor in Papua New Guinea (PNG), mentoring teachers responsible for teaching children aged 3 to 16 who were attending early intervention and special unit classes at partner organisation Callan Services.

As a mentor Fran evaluated the teachers’ learning environments and teaching styles, then developed some alternative approaches and environment changes.

“I began creating learning resources for the children and teaching resources for the teachers and took up the role of lead teacher to demonstrate new teaching practices. I helped the teachers write up new teaching programmes for the next term and helped create the resources. I taught alongside and assisted when applicable,” says Fran.

“I had so many highlights in the classroom such as when a child would proudly come up to me and show me their work they had been doing with a huge smile and when the whole class would be up and moving and laughing singing songs or playing games.”

The role of a volunteer always involves activity in the wider community and Fran assisted teachers in conducting parent teacher meetings, discussing individual children’s goal setting and planning. She presented to groups from other schools and community groups about people with disabilities and how teachers or other students can assist them in the classroom or in the home. She joined staff in community events and regularly attended church services with students from the local Catholic schools.

“A big emphasis is to promote inclusivity where children with disabilities sit alongside children without disabilities in the school classroom. I went to other community schools and held presentations and training on practical inclusive teaching in regular schools. I also assisted the Callan teaching team when they went into the community schools and held eye and ear checks.”

Using her extensive experience and background, Fran was able to recreate a rich learning environment in the classrooms.

“I had many alternative ideas for educating children from my experience and learning which I was able to share with the PNG teachers. I was able to leave the children a curriculum that was more individually based, more creative, and I hope more engaging than previously.”

About Callan Services:

Callan Services for people with disabilities was established by the Christian Brothers in Papua New Guinea in 1991, when Br Graeme Leach pioneered the service in Wewak on the north-west coast of Papua New Guinea for the education of children with disabilities. This initial centre was established in collaboration with the Catholic Diocese of Wewak. Due to the success of the first Callan Services Centre, the model was replicated in other regions of Papua New Guinea. There are now 19 Callan Special Education Resource Centres (SERCs) across Papua New Guinea.

Callan Services works in schools with teachers and students and in homes with all age groups. Staff provide eye and ear community and school screening and early intervention preschool and Sign Language classes at the centres. Staff also run awareness sessions to schools and communities about disability and children’s rights and child protection.

You can find out more about Callan Services here

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Parade in Papua New Guinea, photo credit: Matthew Lambie