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Building inclusive education in Bhutan

An insider's look at the journey to Perkins' Educational Leadership Program, and how the experience turned out a more confident leader for children with disabilities in Bhutan.

Nyendo stands in traditional Bhutanese attire in front of a poster about Bhutan

Nyendo, Principal Specialist at Changangkha Middle Secondary School in Bhutan, is an alumni of Perkins’ Educational Leadership Program, class of 2022. With no background in the education of children with disabilities, Nyendo sought out the program so he could become the best possible leader for students with disabilities at his inclusive school. Treasured for his commitment and wise words, Nyendo’s peers elected him to be the 2022 class speaker at graduation.

Toward the end of his nine-month study and practice on Perkins’ campus, Nyendo shared the following thoughts about his journey to Perkins, and experience in the program. We are happy to share these thoughts in his own words, to provide an insider’s perspective about the program.


Portrait of Nyendo, 2022 graduate of Perkins Educational Leadership Program.

I am Nyendo, Educational Leadership Program graduate.

I work as a Principal Specialist in an Inclusive School in the capital city of Bhutan.

This is a large inclusive school with around 85 children with disabilities studying in the academic year 2021. I have been working in this Inclusive School since February 2014. Leading a big inclusive school with many children with multiple disabilities without a deep understanding in the field of disabilities has always been a challenge.

To give you some context , first let me share some statistics on the population with disability in my country, as per the Population and Housing Census of Bhutan (PHCB).

In 2017, the general population of Bhutan was 681,720, among which 15,567 (2.1%) had one or more disabilities. The study also indicated that 31% of children with disabilities between 5 – 18 years were not enrolled in school and they were mostly in the rural areas.

31% of children with disabilities between 5 – 18 years are not enrolled in school

Population and Housing Census of Bhutan, 2017

Having services that reach out to these children is essential. Accessing education is a must so children with disabilities can grow, develop, and have a better quality of life. It has always been a challenge for me to run an inclusive school with many children with multiple disabilities without much knowledge on this particular field.

Googling a path to inclusivity

People always expect me to be the key actor for operating and directing all administrative functions of the school successfully and effectively. I am responsible for creating an educational ecosystem, which provides learning opportunities for all students, including those with disabilities. Many come to my office to seek professional and personal support to provide quality services to children with multiple disabilities. I did not have a concrete answer or a solution to support my teachers and students in the field of disability until now. 

Sometimes, I was feeling frustrated and guilty for not having a right answer or solutions to my teachers and students when they came to me for support. I read many books in the field of disability and I was not sure whether the theory I read from the books could be applied to children with disabilities in the classrooms.

8 students wearing a green uniform stand as a group in front of their classroom window and raise their arms in the air.
Eight students pose in with their arms raised high.
Six students pose in front of their classroom window. Four students stand close to and behind the two students who use wheelchairs. They all look in different directions with their arms raised high.
Six students pose with their arms raised high.

Google was always my teacher but I knew all the information received from Google may not always be right. I had no other options than to refer to Google to help me support my teachers and children with multiple disabilities. I always have gratitude for the person who invented Google. So thanks to Google!

And then came Perkins. I knew Perkins School for the Blind through the poems of Helen Keller. A small research on Helen Keller paved my path to Perkins. Since then, Perkins School for the Blind has always been my dream to visit and learn how to bring quality of life to many children with multiple disabilities and deafblindness in my school and my country at large. 

Enhancing inclusive leadership

The Educational Leadership Program in Perkins is supporting my role as a principal in an inclusive school so we can provide quality services to children with multiple disabilities and deafblindness, both in and outside the school. It is also helping me to learn more on how to support teachers for the provision of appropriate quality interventions as per the specific needs of the child. 

This training program offered by Perkins is making me a better leader. It has opened my eyes and heart as well on how to support teachers in teaching and learning programs for the children with disabilities. The Educational Leadership Program curricula offered to us is very much relevant to both my roles as a teacher and principal. 

Putting inclusive theory to practice

Further, the Educational Leadership Program is designed in such a way that we are given a deep understanding of the children with multiple disabilities and deafblindness and how each child is unique and learns.

Students from Nyendo's inclusive school participate in a shopping activity. Here, four students stand in line with their shopping bags and look around the shop, which has full rows of canned and other types of products.
Students from Nyendo’s school participate in a shopping activity – an example of a meaningful activity for children with disabilities introduced in the Educational Leadership Program.
Parents of children with disabilities at Nyendo's inclusive school volunteer to teach students how to make baskets. Here, a mother sits closely to her son as she assists him in weaving the various blue and red strings.
Parents of children with disabilities volunteer to teach students how to make baskets. Activities like this build students’ interests and expose them to vocational skills for the future.

We are offered good concepts on a wide range of areas like accessibility, curriculum, planning, assessment, developmental stages, cortical/cerebral visual impairment (CVI), and working with families. The observation and cottage program designed for us is reassuring how theories learnt are put into practice. It is making us more convinced and assured that theory lessons were very much aligned with the actual practice in the Perkins classrooms. And it is further making us have a deep understanding of the role of professionals in the classrooms.

I am now CONFIDENT to lead a large Inclusive School with children with multiple disabilities in Bhutan and beyond.

Nyendo

Currently, I am feeling more confident and equipped with knowledge, skills and abilities to support teachers and students both inside and outside the school. I can now refer to Perkins more than Google. I am now CONFIDENT to lead a large Inclusive School with children with multiple disabilities in Bhutan and beyond.

Notes of gratitude

I would like to thank Marianne Riggio, Lisa Jacobs, Dina Fiore, Debbie Gleason, Ami Tango, and all professionals at Perkins School for Blind who taught and supported us to be what we are today. I have genuine gratitude to all individuals who supported me to come to Perkins and fulfill my dreams.

I am ready and committed to support children with multiple disabilities and deafblindness in my country and globally at large. 

Nyendo, Class of 2022


The above content has been edited for clarity and formatted to fit this blog.

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