MTN Foundation’s Digital Access for Inclusion empowers 1,400 learners with special needs

Brian Mbasa, Senior Manager MTN Foundation talks to learners of Hornby High School Junior as they use computers courtesy of the telecom company to stir digital skills among learners (PHOTO/Courtesy)

In a transformative initiative, MTN Foundation’s Digital Access for Inclusion program has opened the doors of technology to nearly 1,400 learners with disabilities across five schools in Uganda this year, marking a significant investment of Shs800 million. This commitment to a connected and inclusive future underscores MTN Foundation’s dedication to advancing education through technology.

The impact of the program reverberates across different regions, with Salama School for the Blind and Masaka School for the Deaf in the central region receiving 10 computers each, along with assorted equipment and a year of free internet connectivity. Similar support extended to the eastern region’s Ngora School for the Deaf, the northern region’s Gulu High School, and the western region’s Hornby High School in Kabale.

Brian Mbasa, Senior Manager at MTN Foundation, emphasized the program’s seamless alignment with MTN Uganda’s Ambition 2025 Strategy. This strategy ensures that the benefits of a modern connected life are accessible to everyone, irrespective of their socio-economic background or ability. He highlighted MTN Uganda’s commitment to equipping learners with digital skills crucial for navigating the evolving job market, emphasizing that the digital skilling initiative will persist amid the ongoing 4th industrial revolution.

This initiative comes as World Bank statistics indicates that 16% of Ugandan children have a disability, suggesting that most children with disabilities are not able to attend school and that learners with special needs fail to transition from one educational level to another.

The statistics further notes that only 5% of children with disabilities have access education through Inclusive Schools and 10% through special schools.

Similarly, the   Ministry of Education and Sports statistics for 2017 reveals that out of 9,597 pupils enrolled in pre-primary schools, 1.6% have impairments. The majority are children with ‘mental impairment’ (28%) followed by ‘hearing impairments’ (25%), ‘visual impairment’ (22%), ‘physical impairment’ (16%), ‘autism’ (5%) and ‘multiple handicaps-deaf and blind’ (4%).

The data also shows that there are 172,864 children with special needs in primary schools, which is 2.0% of total primary level enrollment and 9% of the overall children with special needs. Children with impairment had the largest percentage, followed up visually impaired physical impairment and others.

In the secondary school section, learners with special needs stood at 8,945 (0.6%) out of 1.37million enrolled learners. There is no data available on students with disabilities enrolled in universities and other tertiary institutions.

Nevertheless, heads of beneficiary institutions expressed gratitude for the support. Michael Ekadit, the Headteacher of Ngora School for the Deaf, pledged unwavering commitment to the project’s sustainability, particularly in acquiring necessary data bundles. He stated, “I convey this before stakeholders and district leadership, and we shall ‘never give up.’ Whoever takes over after my retirement should ensure the project continues thriving.”

This initiative is part of MTN Uganda Foundation’s broader efforts to enhance information and communication technologies in schools and communities. Other institutions such as Kabale Preparatory School in Kabale District, Smart Girls Foundation in Wakiso District, and Moroto Public Library in Moroto District have also benefited from fully equipped computer labs.

Over the years, MTN Uganda has collaborated with organizations like Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS) to support the government’s goal of delivering education for all.

The foundation has implemented 15 infrastructural projects in various educational institutions, expanding access to quality education for thousands of learners.

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