Thousands of young Panamanians demonstrate and promote inclusion in the country's schools

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On Tuesday, October 30, at the Kiwanis gym inside the City of Knowledge, students, school teachers and leaders met to present the results of the first phase of the project "Unified Schools: Inclusive Education and Sports as Development Tools".

The project has involved more than 13,000 young Panamanians who are involved in the Young Athletes and Unified Sports programs, an initiative of Special Olympics with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank and the Japanese Poverty Reduction Fund, which unites people with and without intellectual disability in a same team.

Young Athletes and Unified Sports of Special Olympics are a fast track for the understanding and acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities, and promote inclusion on and off the field, in schools and in society.

During the presentation, we took the opportunity to interview Paula Duque, Project Coordinator.

Is this the first year of the project?

Yes, the agreement was signed on July 14, 2017, however, it starts with the MEDUCA 2018 school calendar. During this first year, in addition to involving thousands of children, training was also carried out for more than 115 school directors, physical education teachers and special education teachers.

What are the objectives?

We have taken the project to 33 schools, previously selected by MEDUCA and the Directorate of Special Education, for the implementation of the two flagship programs of Unified Schools: Young Athletes for children from 4 to 7 years old and Unified Sports for children 8 years and older. The goal is to practice sports in an inclusive manner, where students with intellectual disabilities share with their peers without intellectual disabilities and generate ties of fraternity, teamwork and inclusion.

What entities participate and where in the country?

MEDUCA, SENADIS and PANDEPORTES participate in more than 60 schools throughout the country. 33 public schools have participated in the first year (in Panama North, Center, East, West and San Miguelito) and 30 will participate in the second year (in the interior of the country excluding Darién and the Comarcas).

What does this initiative achieve?

Through this innovative initiative, Special Olympics, the IDB and Panama strengthen their commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and promote the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities, strengthening the way for a truly inclusive society.

The "Unified Schools" project uses inclusive sports activities, where young students with and without intellectual disabilities play together as teammates, putting into practice and directly demonstrating the benefits of their message of inclusion and awareness. Through the project, we introduce programs that sensitize and motivate students to include people with intellectual disabilities inside and outside of schools.

The project will be carried out in a period of 3 years in the Republic of Panama and will impact 18,000 young people with and without intellectual disabilities in more than 60 schools in the country.