Hesperian Health Guides
Chapter 53: Education: At Home, at School, at Work
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Guided learning to help a child gain skills and understanding for meeting life’s needs is called ‘education’. In Chapters 34 to 43 we talked about ways to help children with disabilities and developmental delays to learn to control and use their bodies and minds, and to master early basic skills for daily living. But as a child grows up, many additional skills and knowledge are needed.
For nearly all children, education begins in the home. For some it continues in school; for others in the fields, in the forest, at the marketplace, on the riverbank, or in the streets.
In the cities of most countries, a school education has become almost a ‘basic need’ for getting a job or being accepted by society. In many villages and farming communities, however, ‘book learning’ still is much less important than the skills children learn through helping their families with daily work.
In some rural areas, therefore, it may be a mistake to think that ‘every child’ should go to school. For the child who is physically strong but mentally slow, schooling may be a frustrating and unrewarding experience, especially if no ‘special education’ is available. The child may be happier and learn more skills for meeting life’s needs by helping father in the fields, or mother in the marketplace, than by going to school.
However, for some mentally slow children in rural areas, schooling can be important. If the teacher and other children can be helped to understand the special needs of the child, treat him with respect, and give him encouragement, the slow learner may benefit greatly from school, both educationally and socially.
Whatever the case, it is important to consider the local situation carefully. Do not just follow the recommendations from the outside about the importance of schooling. Some school situations are better and some are worse than others. So before deciding for a particular child, look carefully at the good and the bad things about the local school and consider the other choices.
For the physically disabled child in the rural area, schooling may be especially important—more so, perhaps, than for able-bodied children. Physically disabled children often cannot do hard physical farm work as well as the able-bodied. Therefore, they need to learn skills using their minds, so that they can work or take part in community activities. It may help them to go as far in school as possible.