Improving the lives of children with special needs
On the corridors of the primary block of Ashongman M/A Basic ‘1’, Godfred Adjetey walks with staggering balance to open the headteacher’s door. With stiff, curled limbs and speech impediment, Adjetey, 15, is a student with cerebral palsy – a medical condition from birth that affects body movement, muscle coordination and posture.
Adjetey’s disability does not stand in his way of taking responsibilities. The primary five student is in charge of ensuring all classrooms are locked after school and supervising juniors to carry out cleaning tasks given to them – a role he carries out to the admiration of all.
Headteacher, Francisca Bello, believes Adjetey’s leadership potential is enormous and if given the right support, can achieve a lot in life. “He carries out every duty, task or assignment given to him to the best of his abilities. The seriousness and dedication he shows to academic work and extra-curricular activities makes him a very inspiring student to many of his colleagues.”
Adjetey’s good grasp of mathematical concepts and general knowledge led to his promotion from primary two to primary five within a year, inching closer to his dream to be an engineer. Primary five class teacher, Annabella Kesewaa, highlighted Adjetey’s sociable personality and strong focus on academic work.
“He performs all exercises assigned to the class and what has really helped is that I attached him to one of the brightest student in class so he’s able to assist him with subject notes. Finding a good learning partner for a student with special needs really helps them to stay on track every time,” Kesewaa said.
Training teachers on inclusive education has fostered a culture of diversity and inclusion in this school, which has the highest number of students with disabilities in the circuit. Every academic year, newly admitted students are medically and academically screened to identify students with any form of special needs.
With the help of the special education circuit coordinator, who oversees that students with special needs are given the appropriate attention and environment to thrive, a professional review is done on each special needs student identified, with recommendations on properly integrating them into the school.
“I hold periodic workshops and seminars for teachers to guide them on managing students with special needs with focus on acceptance, choice of words and conversational skills, using them for peer teaching, making positive referrals and effective learning supervision,” said Prince Francis Tsatsu, 37, resource and special education coordinator for Abokobi.
With the support of UNICEF, inclusive education workshops are held to train teachers to support the inclusion of every child to attain quality education within a safe and enabling learning environment.
For primary one teacher, Fuseina Asumaila, 33, the practical training sessions she has received in the last two years on special education transformed her outlook on students with disabilities and improved her management of such children, ten of whom are in her class currently. “I am more supportive and spend extra time with them when necessary, ensuring they sit forward so I can supervise their attention and use more teaching and learning materials to help them visualize what they are studying.”
Sitting behind a table-top confectionery stall on the school’s compound is Leticia Larsey, mother of Eugene Togbor, a primary two pupil with speech, hearing and hyperactivity disorders. She recounts how her son’s behaviour has positively improved since he was admitted at the school in 2016.
“He was violent and aggressive before he started school but has now become calm and respectful. Before he couldn’t speak at all but now he can say my name a bit clearly,” Larsey said amid a beaming smile. “Anytime he calls me Ayele, my heart is filled with joy. I never thought such improvement could be achieved so quickly.”