Besides programs for post-secondary students and local farmers, Chipembi Farm College has a specific program for students with special needs. Since 1990, the farm college has offered an intensive three-year program for Special Needs students that focus primarily on practical farming instruction, with 10 percent of time spent in the classroom. After a period of assessment, three dedicated teachers take the students through various farm tasks like composting, gardening, livestock management, and even accounts management. Special Needs students are taught to maintain their own gardens, as well as work together in a shared garden.
As the students progress, the teachers do their best to align the students with tasks that match their abilities and interests. Most students are able to graduate the special needs program with all of the skills necessary to live on their own in rural Zambia.
Because the students need intensive and individualized training—which often includes basic life skills, English language skills, and reading—the program is only able to enroll 10 students every three years. Due to poverty and misconceptions regarding their abilities, their families often abandon Special Needs students. Compared with other students that Chipembi Farm College serves, the Special Needs students require the most help but arrive with fewest resources. As there is no government funding or other specific external support for the program, the farm college can only address a fraction of the need at the present time.
In addition to increased funding to allow the special needs program to serve more students, one of the most pressing needs at Chipembi Farm College is dedicated transportation for the Special Needs students. With dedicated transportation, staff could take them on visits to surrounding farms, greatly expanding their exposure to different aspects of rural life.
In a later post, I’ll feature one of the recent graduates of the special needs program, who is a remarkable individual living and working independently in the community. As you’ll soon see, this program really works.