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Laura (13) is severely multi-handicapped. Her development is seriously impeded, her eyesight is poor and her health is precarious. Because she was deemed ‘unteachable,’ she was waived from mandatory education. She sat at home. At least, that was the case until a ‘To School Together’ class was created in her neighborhood. At the age of 12, she could finally go to school.

A ‘To School Together’ class is a modified classroom for severely handicapped children within an ordinary elementary school. The children receive special education in their own classroom, with all the care and support they need. Wherever possible, they can join in with the other children for activities like talking circles, music lessons, physical education and recess.

The ‘To School Together’ project is an initiative from NSGK, the Dutch Foundation for the Handicapped Child (Nederlandse Stichting voor het Gehandicapte Kind). There are currently 17 ‘To School Together’ classrooms in the Netherlands, often set up by parents and education professionals who believe the system ought to work better. NSGK helps them with funding and expertise. The children, parents, teachers and schools involved in one of these projects are all enthusiastic about the results. Every child can learn, if they can receive an education that fits their needs. And when children both with and without handicaps go to school together, it also becomes natural for them to live together in the community.

‘To School Together’ is a positive step toward inclusive education, where all children, regardless of handicap or background, can go to school together in their own neighborhoods. They can all get the education, care and support they need to develop fully. This is the kind of education we are trying to achieve through the 17 global goals: ‘inclusive education for all.’

Unfortunately, the world is nowhere near reaching that goal. In the Netherlands, there are nearly 70,000 handicapped children in special education. And there are another 5,000 children like Laura, who are classified as ‘unteachable’ and never go to school because of severe handicaps. There is still some way to go before all children can go to school together. NSGK continues to try to make that happen.

NSGK is a charitable organization for handicapped children and young people in the Netherlands. The foundation helps them to just be able to play, learn, live and work, together with others their own age who aren’t handicapped. NSGK works in cooperation with service clubs by adding 50% to the funds they raise for NSGK projects. For more information about this and other NSGK activities, please visit their website.

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