Monday, 11 November 2013

Education in Tamale

Hello again avid readers and welcome back to our blog! This week we will be talking about the very busy few weeks that we have had working alongside a number of schools in the Tamale area. During this time we wanted to evaluate the level and quality of education that is currently available to pupils with a disability, the opportunity for integration with mainstream pupils and the attitudes of staff about working with them. We decided to focus upon this area as it was a reoccurring issue within the report that the previous team completed and so warranted further investigation.

During our time out in the field we have been fortunate enough to meet some fantastic characters that we took a shine to immediately. I have even managed to accumulate a new Ghanaian aunt! (Hi Aunty Gladys). All of the staff that we interviewed have been very friendly and keen to express their opinions on an often controversial topic. It quickly became clear that there was a wide range of opinions on the education of disabled pupils. This did not appear to be effected by the fact that it was a Special or Mainstream school. We were positively surprised on a number of occasions by mainstream teachers who exhibited real compassion towards disabled students and a true enthusiasm to improving their quality of education. A number of mainstream head teachers expressed an interest in integrating disabled pupils into their school if they were given the appropriate and necessary resources to educate them. From this, the Resource Centre for Persons with Disabilities, will continue to campaign and fund raise in an effort to help these schools achieve this.

Unfortunately not all of the responses were as positive. In a few of the mainstream schools that we visited it quickly became evident that disabled pupils would not find a place there. Although the staff exhibited a positive attitude about disabled pupils being educated, they did not believe that this should occur within their school. The staff indicated that they didn’t have the resources or training necessary to work with disabled students and were not particularly interested in receiving any in the near future. These interviews highlighted a need for an increase in sensitization campaigns and further guidance and backing from the government in an attempt to reach the deadline of 2015 for integration that was set in the Disability Act of 2006.

The schools that I personally enjoyed visiting the most were Yumba Special School and Savelugu School for the Deaf. I felt that these schools radiated a real warmth and devotion towards their pupils that was instantly infectious. Both of these schools catered for children that had single or multiple disabilities such as hearing, visual and intellectual impairments. Although the dedication of the staff towards their pupils was unquestionable it was easy to establish that the schools lacked some of the necessary resources and facilities that are vital to educate disabled pupils. All of the school buildings were outdated and few could be considered to be disability friendly. The wheelchair ramps that were in place were poorly designed and so were very steep and slippy (which I found out to my detriment…yes I fell over). All of the teachers stated that they didn't have the specialised teaching materials necessary to provide an adequate education for these children.

Some of the teachers that we met were simply awe inspiring and went well beyond their duties as teachers. Many teachers spoke about how they would use their own money to pay for resources to keep the schools ticking over. Two teachers in particular stood out for me, Anthony and Daniel from Savelugu School for the Deaf. Not only do these teachers tirelessly spend their days educating their disabled pupils they also give up their weekends. Paul and Daniel host sign language classes on a fortnightly basis for the parents of deaf children so that they are able to communicate with their children. They are also creating a sign language instructional video. 

Overall this experience has been very positive and provides optimism for change in the future for disabled people within the education system. However this is a very slow process that is not receiving the full attention and backing it deserves from the government. Due to this it will take a long time for these changes to be implemented meaning that countless pupils will not receive the education they deserve.


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