Robert Lumu’s photograph of 9-year-old Jemba John, sitting and reading with his peers at his school in Central Uganda, where Albinism is still considered a curse, is the winner of the 2020 GEM Report photo competition on inclusion and education. The competition was calling for photos that capture either the essence of inclusive education or help depict some of the key challenges standing in its way, illustrating different interpretations of inclusive education from around the globe and influencing the way people think through images.
The caption to Lumu’s photo speaks for itself. “As the first term of 2019 began on 4 February, amongst the learners who reported at Kanziira Islamic primary school in Kiboga district was a young, zealous and courageous young boy, Jemba John. Now ten years old, Jemba lives with his grandmother in the villages of Kanziira. He is a happy young boy living with Albinism.
In most rural areas of Uganda, children living with disabilities or with Albinism still face big challenges of discrimination by both their immediate relatives and communities at large. They are considered to be a curse in the family. Discrimination towards people living with Albinism in particular is one of the major issues in Uganda and some other African countries that needs special attention. Children living with Albinism need a lot of protection.
In an effort to promote inclusiveness in education and protect children living with disabilities and Albinism, an NGO called Building Tomorrow champions this cause in the hard-to-reach communities of Uganda where I served as a fellow for two years between 2018 – 2019. I joined an initiative to include Jemba, a boy living with Albinism who was side-lined in class for years due to his skin appearance. I worked hand-in-hand with the different stakeholders including Jemba’s grandparents who are his guardians, the school administration, school management committee, and community education volunteers.
In February 2019, Jemba was admitted into the Kanziira Islamic primary school in Kiboga district, Uganda, in primary one class where he was made to share a desk with other pupils. This served as a clear indicator that every child is like any other. Within a few weeks, Jemba had many friends and they could read books together and play together. Jemba could narrate stories better than any of the other children which made him popular throughout the entire school.
Jemba is currently one of the happiest learners at school, although he still has challenges getting necessary skin protection supplies which are expensive for him and his grandparents to afford. Sometimes, especially during hot sunny seasons, this makes his life difficult as he is highly affected by the sun’s heat on his skin and light on his eyes. He needs protective sun lotions and glasses to help him move at the same pace as other learners”.
The 2020 GEM Report, due out on 23 June 2020 will cover inclusion in education, addressing all those excluded from education with disabilities, such as Jemba, but also looking at the exclusion of girls, the poor, migrants, those in rural areas, refugees, ethnic and linguistic minorities, LGBTI communities. Pictures speak louder than words when it comes to explaining the way inclusion in education works in practice. This is why the GEM Report launched an international photo competition to seek out new and original images to complement its innovative findings and analysis. As with every year, the winning photographer was chosen by a panel convened by the GEM Report, received a prize, and the chance to have their photographs featured in the 2020 GEM Report.
We will be featuring the top finalists’ submissions on our @gemreport Instagram page in a photo series over the coming weeks.