In just a few short years a school for children with special needs in Maputo, Mozambique, has expanded from a single room, where students watched television all day, to a purpose-built facility providing specialist care, education and support.

This rapid transformation is thanks in part to support from Halcrow Foundation funds, which cover the running costs of the school.

Established in 2002, registered local charity Cooperativa para a Educação e Reabilitação de Cidadãos Inadaptados (CERCI) works with children aged between six and 15 years. Their needs and level of disability vary and students’ conditions include Down’s syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome, autism and severe learning difficulties. The majority of those attending the CERCI school are unable to contribute towards fees, severely curtailing the school’s ability to operate.

The school is split into three classes based on the children’s level of disability. With the support of a trained, specialist team providing speech, occupational and physical therapy, each group has made considerable progress and the children are flourishing.

Intensive physiotherapy has been introduced for those with severe physical disabilities, and two children who were previously unable to walk are now able to do so unassisted. A girl whose movement had been restricted to lying on her stomach can now sit up on her own. Children with moderate levels of mental disability and other disorders are making huge strides in developing their speech, vocabulary, emotions and fine motor skills.

For those children with relatively minor disabilities, the goal is to enable professional and social integration with their peers. Motivated and eager to acquire new skills, the majority of this group is now able to read, write and do basic maths. The support and treatment the children receive is helping these vulnerable young people develop to the best of their ability, and saving them from a life of hardship on the edges of society.

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