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"I have a dream." Disabled children should have an equal right to enjoy their education ǀ View

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When I was little I had a big dream – that dream was to go to school. Not only because I would have more friends and new company around me, but because in my dreams school was a magic place to be. A place where I could spend my day with friends, learn and reach my full potential.

Hi everyone. I am Rijad. I am 14 years old and I live with cerebral palsy. I have a brother and younger sister. My home is in Bardhosh - a suburb of Pristina, Kosovo*.

I imagined my school as a magic place where every wish was fulfilled, and I was looking forward to starting a new life. On the morning of 1 September, my mother fulfilled my dream: I was going to school, and she would take me there.

"My dream is becoming a reality," I said to myself.

I dream these days for all children with disabilities. I hope that there is going to come the day when we will have an equal world for all children.
Rijad Mehmeti
14-year-old schoolboy with cerebal palsy

On the first day at school, I was thrilled and full of positive emotions. I was happy. When I arrived at school, I saw many children waiting to greet me. The first day at school was beyond any dream I had created in my head.

I met many friends there, but there was someone very special, just for me. A helping hand, a friend. Adrian smiled at me and approached me to give me his support. Just imagine, from 1 September to today, Adrian and I are best friends.

We went into the classroom where the magic continued for me. Adrian sat next to me and helped me to take notebooks and pens out of my bag. For a few minutes we talked to each other and the feeling grew: this was the school that I had dreamed about.

I did face some difficulties in the first hour of lessons: I wanted to write but I couldn't. And there was Adrian again, helping me to write. The first two letters that we wrote together were A and E.

I had mixed feelings. I liked the school, and I was happy that I was writing but it bothered me that Adrian needed to help me.

I hoped that this was the only kind of support that I would need from him, and that the school would soon take care of me, providing me with a special table to write, based on my needs, where I can write like all the other children in my class.

In that first hour, I realised that the magic school that I had dreamed about is one that will provide me with better conditions – a school where I can write on my own. And not only me. It will provide better conditions to another three children in my school who have disabilities.

After an hour, I had to go to the toilet. Another challenge. I could not go with my wheelchair because the school toilets are not accessible for children and people with disabilities. Again, Adrian and my friends helped me this time but I realized that this was not going to be as easy as I thought.

Gradually, I realized that this is not actually the school that I dreamed about. From 1 September 2015 until today, I am still waiting for that table to support me in writing, I am still going to the toilet with the help of my friends, especially Adrian.

Ziyah Gafic/UNICEF
Rijad (right) enjoys lunch with school friendsZiyah Gafic/UNICEF

Just imagine if we had assistive technology provided to us in schools. The technology and equipment that helps us learn. Wouldn’t that really turn my school into the magic school I dreamed of?

The reason why I'm telling this story is because I keep facing the same challenges. Those challenges have actually expanded. And I realized that they are not only in school, but in other institutions or across the city. I don't have access to many things that would make my life easier, simpler and -- who knows – make my life more beautiful.

I thank my family and my friends who are supporting me to overcome these challenges and who continue to provide me with best times of my life, in family and school.

But my dream of a magic school faded away. What I want is equality and this will only happen when I have the chance to enter the toilet by myself, when I have the conditions to write by myself and when we can use technology to develop our skills much further.

I dream these days for my friends, too. I dream these days for all children with disabilities. I hope that there is going to come the day when we will have an equal world for all children, where all children can enjoy their time at school and really see school as a place of magic, and a place where their dreams come true.

*Kosovo (UN Security Council Resolution 1244)

Rijad Mehmeti is a 14-year-old Kosovan with cerebal palsy. UNICEF translated and edited this piece into English on his behalf.