A teacher hero – making home-made desks for refugee children with disabilities

Photo: (From Author Site URL)

Rahman Hamdan is a teacher in an UNRWA school in Gaza who has made desks and chairs for children with disabilities. Often, physical barriers are enough for a child living with a disability to be turned away or to feel excluded from education. In this UNWRA school, with no funds available to buy his children the equipment they needed to access education in a dignified way, Mr Hamdan used pieces of broken school chairs and desks, as well as unused office chairs, car seats and other recycled materials to do the work himself.


©UNRWA – Vivian Alt, Disability Advisor

In the photo on the left, a car seat has been used to make sitting at the desk comfortable for students with physical impairments. The car seat enables the student to move closer to the desk and they can adjust the level of inclination according to their needs. The top of the desk also moves up and down to facilitate seating and moving, i.e. if the child has crutches or a wheelchair.


©UNRWA – Vivian Alt, Disability Advisor

He made a desk (right) for pupils with visual impairments that inclines, so that it doesn’t hurt the students’ backs when reading and writing up close to their books. The top of the desk also moves up and down and is adjustable according to the height, or other needs of the child. In addition, the chair has wheels so the student can move its desk close to the board if needed then back to his place in class.


©UNRWA – Vivian Alt, Disability Advisor

Not stopping there, he also made a chair for a student with cerebral palsy. The top of the desk goes up and down so that the student can move from their wheelchair to the chair. The car seat and the bottom part simulates the same features of the specific wheelchair, which is normally used by children with cerebral palsy.

According to Mr. Hamdan, each product cost around $50 to make, rather than the $350-$400 it would cost with new materials. This solution may not be perfect, but it is testament to some people’s determination not to allow children to go without an education, no matter their circumstance. As Mr Hamdan proves, a teacher with no other form of support can sometimes single-handedly ensure that inclusive education is provided. Faced with a double disadvantage, being both refugees and living with a disability, these children need the support of agencies such as UNWRA, which provides support for over 13,000 Palestine refugees with disabilities across the region.

What innovative projects or programmes have you heard of that have helped ensure inclusive education? How can common obstacles to the implementation of inclusive education policies be anticipated and overcome?

We hope you will be inspired by the story of Mr Hamdan to help us answer these questions and more in our current online consultation for the 2020 GEM Report on inclusion and education.