Perkins International partner sparks shift in multiple disabilities education in Egypt

Nida Society, a longtime PI collaborator, recently opened the first of 10 landmark model programs.

Perkins International conducted teacher training courses in Egypt last February.

One year ago, Perkins International (PI) began a three-year commitment in Egypt to put expertise into the hands of the country’s changemakers — those educational professionals positioned to improve the lives of Egyptian children with multiple disabilities and sensory loss.

Through these dedicated educators, and with PI’s support, children with multiple disabilities in Egypt are gaining more access to specialized educational programming.  

Nida Society, a Cairo-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that provides comprehensive early intervention services and a longtime partner of PI, recently opened the first of 10 model programs for Egyptian public school students with multiple disabilities.

This new program in Cairo — designed for duplication in schools across Egypt — is revolutionary for the country, according to Nida Society: “In Egyptian public schools, they serve children with only one disability. Never before our project [have] children with multiple disabilities had a place in public schools,” the organization said.

Through Perkins International Academy (PIA) courses, which established a global competency standard for teachers of an often underserved and vulnerable population, Perkins is delivering quality education training worldwide.

Intensive PIA instruction underway in Egypt supports an effective collaboration between Nida Society and the Egyptian government’s Ministry of Education and Ministry of Social Solidarity.

This multi-pronged, integrative approach represents “a real picture of best practice in terms of international development work,” according to David Satterthwaite, director of international operations for PI.

Teachers trained through Perkins International Academy last February are part of the new program serving children with multiple disabilities in Cairo.

Martha Majors, education director of Perkins’ Deafblind Program, led the first course in February 2018 and continues to lead the ongoing PIA trainings in Egypt, bringing expertise from an over four-decade career working at Perkins. Nida Society staff member Mai Ameen, who participated in Perkins International’s Educational Leadership Program, also “contributed greatly” to the trainings, according to Nida Society.

The PIA courses in Egypt are attended by not only teachers, but also other education influencers like administrators, social workers, government employees — a key point, according to Satterthwaite.

“Now we’re starting to train a significant number of changemakers from different disciplines,” he says. “That’s how we’ll see systematic change to benefit children.”

Satterthwaite notes “the relationship with Nida is really about all of Egypt, and the model program approach is part of that broader strategy — so that others can go and see how it’s supposed to be.”

In addition to working to establish model programs and partnering on PIA trainings, Nida Society is creating the first curriculum for children with multiple disabilities in Egypt. “It’s really impressive what they’ve been able to do,” says Satterthwaite.

Their program is also gaining national recognition in Egypt.

High-level officials from the Ministry of Education and members of working Egyptian NGOs attended the recent model program opening ceremony. And the Minister of Social Solidarity mentioned the work of Nida Society in a December 2018 speech, following a yearlong focus on initiatives for people with disabilities in Egypt.

With countries around the world — including Egypt — committed to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 4 of providing quality education to all children by the year 2030, Perkins stands dedicated to leading global change through strategic collaboration.

Satterthwaite says the question becomes, “How can the work of Perkins be highly leveraged in order to serve and make the lives of those children better?”

Training government officials and staff through initiatives like PIA is a crucial part of answering that call and making far-reaching impact.

“Our strategy and our approach represent a new day for how Perkins International looks to change the world and help our partner organizations achieve their mission of educating all children with disabilities worldwide — in a word — at ‘scale,’” says Satterthwaite.