15th July 2024

Idatu Mohammed

In every society, there exist children and adults who live with various forms of disabilities. Some have visual or hearing impairments, others have physical challenges, as well as those with learning difficulties. Disabilities often occur by accident. One cannot predict or intentionally decide to have a disability. In fact, everyone is prone to disability at any time.

According to the Children’s Act, 1998, children with disabilities have the right to be educated with their non-disabled counterparts of their own age. The Act also states that children should have access to the same general curriculum taught to children without disabilities. This will ensure inclusive education because persons with disabilities are supposed to be placed in the same teaching and learning environment as other children of their age who do not have disabilities.

Education is key

Education is the most effective way to break the cycle of discrimination and poverty that children with disabilities and their families often go through. In fact, it is every child’s right to participate in education, and the school’s duty to accept him or her. Education flourishes when facilities meet the demands of students with disabilities.

Schools are supposed to make provisions for all categories of students in whatever terms, so that everyone gets a fair share of his or her fees and experiences a favorable atmosphere on school compound. This is because people with disability deserve better too. Educational institutions cannot be indifferent as they watch a citizen, who through no fault of his or hers, continues to face problems in schools as a result of a disability.


Tertiary educational institutions

Tertiary institutions tend to host lots of students either on campus or residence around, to ease the stress of coming to school. However, certain situations are evidently not favorable for students with disabilities. It is unfortunate that no drastic measures have been put in place for people with this predicament. According to records, one of the few schools who have been able to meet the needs of the disabled is the University of Ghana, Legon. This was made possible owing to the numerous demands of the disabled students for accessible facilities. Currently, there are pathways specifically designed for physically challenged students aside the normal staircases. In view of this, they do not encounter challenges using it since it’s disability user friendly.

That notwithstanding, the story is different at the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ). The issue has been of high concern in GIJ as some students with challenges have narrated their ordeal with regard to the problems they face using the staircase at the institute. This, according to them, has made it difficult for them to engage in meaningful academic pursuits. One of such students, who decided to speak on anonymity, shared her frustration on the issues at hand. She emphasised that persons with disability are being admitted into the university with no facilities for them.

She indicated that she is a bit fortunate she can walk and use the clutches to climb the stairs but can’t say that it is very comfortable. “By the time I am done with the first floor, my shoulders will already be hurting, which is not friendly. Since I use the elbow clutches, I’m a bit comfortable, but then again, the environment is just not suitable for me,” she pointed out.

This should send the wrong signal to the institute that it is not making life comfortable and dignifying for these disabled students as against their non-disabled counterparts in the school.


Inclusive education

The concept of inclusive education is a relatively controversial subject for many parents and educators. But the reality is that “inclusive education” involves modifications in philosophy, curriculum, teaching strategy, and structural organisation.

Such modifications go beyond just affecting those students labelled as “disabled” and even far beyond the purview of what is traditionally known as special education. And each of these modifications has the potential to effect the necessary transformation and support needed by students with disabilities.

It is indeed evident that more than physical structures will need to change in order for students with disabilities to be included into academic programmes, and have the same opportunities to succeed and enjoy life as students without disabilities.

God has blessed all human beings with various abilities such as the ability to see, hear, walk etc. The fact that one has a problem with one of the abilities does not make one a disabled person who is viewed as incapable of doing anything in the society. Hence, we all have a role to play to ensure that persons with disabilities live contentedly in the society especially in our various educational institutions.

I believe that for every educational institution to succeed in making students with disabilities feel at ease, it must be a passion that is shared by all the protagonists involved, including agencies, teachers, families, Non-governmental organisations (NGOs), Chiefs and the whole community.

It also requires policy, inclusive working policies, that ensures the welfare of students with disability and their families at the centre of it. Such collaborated efforts will go a long way to make students excel in their academic work so as to contribute their quota to the growth and development of their families and the country in general.

The author is a student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ).


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