Lack of integrated schools denies visually impaired access to education

Education Visually Impaired School
Education Visually Impaired School

It has been the case that some parents of children with special needs in the country try to hide them to avoid so-called public ridicule thereby denying such children freedom and access to opportunities, especially education.
However, for parents of visually impaired children in the Northern Region, the inability of the government to construct a school for the blind and or designate a school in the region for inclusive education to admit visually impaired children, has become an impediment to sending their children to school.
In view of this, parents, who want to enrol their visually impaired children in school, must bear a lot more costs to send them to the Upper West Region to attend the Wa Methodist School for the Blind, which is the only nearest school to the Northern Region to admit them.
The Northern Regional branch of the Ghana Blind Union estimates that there are about 5,000 persons with visual impairment in the region with many of them being children.
However, statistics from the Northern Regional branch of the Ghana Blind Union and the Wa Methodist School for the Blind show that currently, only 27 visually impaired children from the Northern Region are attending the school (Wa Methodist School for the Blind) whilst one other visually impaired young man from the region is a student of Sirigu Senior High School in the Upper East Region.
Mr Yakubu Haruna, a smallholder farmer, who resides at Lamashegu, a suburb of Tamale, has his two visually impaired children attending the Wa Methodist School for the Blind, a 15-year-old girl, who is in form one, and a 10-year-old boy, who is in class two.
Mr Haruna told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) that despite the challenges, he decided to send his visually-impaired children to the school because he believed it was the only gift he could bequeath to them, adding “I know I have nothing to give them but the best I can do for them is to send them to school to empower them such that they will not end up on the streets begging.”
He, however, lamented about the challenges he faced to send them to school saying, “When they are going back to school, I buy them foodstuffs that I can afford and add some amount of money for their upkeep. When school resumes and I do not have money to buy the foodstuffs and pay their transportation fare to Wa, they remain in the house sometimes for weeks until I get money. Sometimes I go around for a loan from people.”
He said it would be a great relief for him if there was an integrated school in Tamale to admit his children, adding “I will be very happy because it will lessen the burden on me. My children will not have to miss some days in school due to lack of money for transport fares and other items.”
Madam Sumaya Fuseini, a resident of Sognayili in the Sagnarigu Municipality in the Northern Region, has her 10-year-old daughter in the Wa Methodist School for the Blind.
She told the GNA that “When school reopens my daughter remains in the house sometimes for weeks until I get money to pay her transportation fare. I sometimes beg drivers to transport her to school, and I pay them later when I get the money.”
Mr Imoro Mohammed, the Northern Regional Secretary of the Ghana Blind Union, told the GNA that the lack of a school for the blind and or integrated schools in the region was preventing many persons with a visual impairment from acquiring formal education.
Mr Mohammed added that “The situation had compelled the over 100 visually-impaired pupils and students to travel outside the region to access basic and secondary education, and a considerable number of them stopped school due to financial challenges.”
He appealed to the government to, in the spirit of promoting inclusive education, designate some schools preferably in Tamale as integrated schools to ensure access to formal education for persons with visual impairment.
He emphasised that “Having a school or several schools in the region rendering inclusive education will help promote decent and brighter opportunities for all.”
Madam Hanifa Fuseini, the Northern Regional Assessment Officer-in-charge of Intellectual Disability at the Northern Regional Directorate of Education, said the Ghana Education Service was aware of the situation and was making efforts to address it.

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