Special Olympics Malawi has certified 60 teachers from 41 public primary schools in Mzuzu City as Unified Coaches after a comprehensive training program.
The primary objective of this endeavor is to broaden the base of athletes with intellectual disabilities and foster a more inclusive and supportive environment for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Unified Coaches support athletes with intellectual disabilities to discover their strengths, abilities and encourage them to improve every day.
Speaking during the graduation ceremony attended by education officials, trainers, and newly certified coaches, Mzuzu City Chief Education Officer Mercy Mayuni, emphasized the significance of this training in the realm of education.
Mayuni highlighted the importance of addressing the neglect that learners with intellectual disabilities often face in sports.
According to Mayuni, the newly equipped coaches would integrate the learners into sporting activities, fostering a sense of inclusion, love, joy, and friendship.
“When we are talking of education, an individual has to be developed holistically. We are talking of inclusive education, and in the classroom every learner is taken on board in the method of teaching activities but in sports they are sometimes neglected,” Mayuni observes.
She explains that through this training, teachers have been equipped with skills and knowledge of helping learners with intellectual disabilities in sporting activities.”
“Learners with intellectual disabilities will no longer be sidelined, they will feel part of the school and will participate in the sporting activities at the same time, bringing love to them, joy and friendship” says Mayuni.
Despite the positive impact of the training, Mayuni acknowledges the need for more Unified Coaches, therefore urging Special Olympics Malawi to continue training teachers so that many of them are equipped with the necessary skills.
“In our schools, we do not have enough teachers who can understand learners with intellectual disabilities. Mostly, at a school we have one who has been trained, so one to cater for standard one to eight is difficult,” she narrates.
She further urged the trained teachers to put into practice the skills and knowledge they have acquired as well as reaching out to learners who are confined to their homes to participate in sporting activities.
On her part, Special Olympics Malawi National Director Enid Mauluka stressed that the training program is meant to recruit more athletes and increase the number of coaches.
” As a country, we have 600, 000 people with intellectual disabilities but as an organization we are reaching out to just 30, 000, which is a small number. We believe that through this training more athletes are going to be recruited; more athletes are going to be engaged in sporting activities as well as having their living environments improved,” says Mauluka.
“We expect the trained teachers to go into their communities, their schools and look for people with intellectual disabilities, those that are being locked up, free them up and make sure that they enjoy life as well as anybody else who doesn’t have any intellectual disability,” she adds.
Responding to the call for additional training, Mauluka assured that Special Olympics Malawi would continue its efforts, saying they operate in almost all the 34 education districts in the country.
Wisdom Phiri, one of the trained teachers, expressed gratitude for the skills and knowledge acquired through the training.
“I have acquired a lot of skills and knowledge on how to handle learners with intellectual challenges. If we compare with what we have been doing in the past, we were just doing sports for the sake of doing it without any skill or knowledge. We now know how to take care of them and how to check their skills,” an excited Phiri explained.