UNICEF donates equipment to support children with disabilities

Cape Coast, United Nation's Children Fund (UNICEF) has provided assistive devices and screening materials worth $100,000 to children with disabilities to help them gain greater access to mainstream education.

The equipment included wheel chairs, complete spectacles, hearing aids and crutches as well as basic screening materials like snellen charts, tennis balls and tossing rings.

The donation was done with funding support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and handed over to government officials at an event in the Central regional flagship assessment centre, located within the Cape Coast School for the Deaf/Blind.

Officials said the screening materials would be sent to stock all the 10 regional assessment centres to make sure they became operational, and create unfetted learning opportunities for children.

It is targeted at children with special needs including: the blind, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, mental problems, hearing impairment and those with physical disabilities among others who are usually hidden at homes and denied opportunities to go to school.

"We believe every single child should have opportunity to education," UNICEF/Ghana representative Susan Namondo Ngongi said.

"It is encouraging to see that all children especially those with special needs now have a chance to learn in an inclusive environment.

"A lot of them don't have the opportunity to go to school, many of them are hidden at home or if they make their way to school the schools are not equipped to receive them properly," she told reporters after handing over the items to government officials.

It expected that with the National Assessment Centre not being accessible to many people, the new supplies to the Regional hubs would enable a number of children with mild forms of disabilities to get tested and given appropriate services.

The Central regional centre has tested about 400 pupils, but Ms Ngongi noted that the figure was small, given that the mobile unit has been able to test thousands more.

The low numbers were blamed on shortage of health personnel but UNICEF said it was working closely with the Ghana Health Service to get additional personnel to man the centres.

Ghana launched an Inclusive Education (IE) policy, with its operational plan covering 2015 - 2019, last year that defines strategic path of government for education of all children with special needs.

MS Ngongi said the child right organisation would continue to provide technical assistance including training of teachers, education officers and relevant stakeholders to implement the policy fully.

A Mobile School Report Card, a home-grown technology, aimed to improve data collection and performance of teachers via effective monitoring has already been launched by UNICEF in 729 schools.

Around 1,367 tablets worth $400,000 have been given to teachers and circuit supervisors in the piloted schools across 10 districts to support the IE pan implementation.

USAID/Ghana Mission Director, Andy Karas said: "Inclusive education is a particularly strong priority for USAID," and expressed the mission's desire to continue their support for children with disabilities.

"I have seen first-hand the power of these efforts to not only open up opportunities for children with special needs, but to help all children receive a better education," he added.

Mr Anthony Boateng, Director of Special Education said Ghana's inclusive education policy had won international accolade as "very exemplary and very realistic", and urged stakeholders to support implementation of the policy.

"We need everybody even the sanitary labourer, the driver, parents, traditional rulers, opinion leaders."

Parents and teachers told journalists that the public schools were not accessive to wheelchair users while the classrooms were equally not friendly to children with impairment, hearing, or mental problems.

Mr Boateng said the structures were put up with traditional mentality which required sustained education to alter.

"We have engaged coordinating directors of the district assemblies to factor disability concerns in the awards of contracts, and there has been tremendous improvements," he said.

Despite progress made in the sensitisation efforts, he said many assemblies were not conforming to the law.

According to the IE plan 200 physical infrastructural design of existing schools are to be modified to suit learners with special education needs. This is to cost government GH 15.5 million.

Source: Ghana News Agency

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