The Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) has been offering services to people with various disabilities (SPD) for over 25 years now. The first service was agricultural rehabilitation of a few persons with visual impairments in the 80s. These services evolved over time from just agricultural rehabilitation to include the following:
- Integrated School for the Blind (ISFB) in Kumbo, North West Province
- Integrated School for the Deaf (ISFD) in Mbingo, North West Province
- Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) project in Mbingo
- Eye care services in all CBC Health Board hospitals and some Integrated Health Centers (aimed at preventing avoidable blindness).
1. CBC Integrated School for the Blind (ISFB), Kumbo
The ISFB started in 1983 with four visually impaired pupils in a temporary classroom at the Kumbo mainstream CBC Primary School and moved into its own building upon completion in 1984. This education program for children with visual impairments runs three sub-components:
An early intervention component in which children with visual impairments are identified in communities by resource teachers, CBR field workers and volunteers, and referred to the Eye Care services. During this process, identified cases whose sight can no longer be restored are enrolled into the early intervention plan, which seeks to give children basic education and daily living skills.
There is also a 4-year center-based pre-integration component. At this level the children are taught Braille, which is the main learning tool for people with visual impairment. The children also go through the mainstream education curriculum, which covers the first 3 years of primary education. As such, upon integration into mainstream schools, the children begin from the 3rd and 4th grades depending on their levels of performance and development of learning abilities.
The third component is the mainstream integration component. ISFB has mapped out 4 integration zones in the North Wet Province to ensure primary and post-primary education for pupils and students with visual impairments. In these integration zones (Kumbo, Ndu, Oku and Ndop), resource teachers work alongside teachers of mainstream schools to ensure effective and efficient studies for the pupils and students. Brailing of textbooks and exams are some of the services provided by the resource teachers From 4 visually impaired pupils in 1983, ISFB today has an enrollment 63 pupils and students at all 3 levels of the program. The institution has a staff strength of 15, which includes teaching, auxiliary and support staff.
Many more people today visit the resource center to see the children read, write, bathe, do craft works and gardening, clean their environment and play music. This especially as the doubts initially expressed by the public on the children’s ability to study along with sighted pupils in mainstream schools have been dispelled by their performances and activities.
The Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board has since the 1980s partnered with CBM in the education of persons with visual impairments. Christian communities and the Kumbo, Oku and Nkambe Councils have equally provided assistance for the initiative. In February 2006 the school received support from the government through the Ministry of Social Affairs from the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries’ Initiative (HIPC) funds to subsidize feeding cost for the children at the resource center.
Meanwhile, in September 2005, the ISFB received its first volunteer (Ursula Becker) from Germany. During her 9-month stay with ISFB, she provided significant expertise to staff of the institution in various domains and introduced the early intervention.
2. Integrated School for the Deaf (ISFD), Mbingo
This institution went operational on October 10, 2000. The intention of the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board (CBCHB) in creating ISFD was to provide formal basic education and appropriate vocational training to hearing-impaired children in Cameroon, as well as share the love of Christ with them so that they may come to His saving knowledge. The school thus works towards integrating children with hearing impairments into mainstream formal education in Cameroon thereby giving them equal opportunities with other children and making them useful to themselves, their families, their communities and the nation at large.
Located within the Mbingo Baptist Hospital premises, ISFD operates as a boarding school and admits pupils of both sexes aged 6-13 from all over the country. Its permanent site is still under construction. Admission process into the school is like in any other formal education establishment wherein a pupil completes an application form available at the school. After primary school, most pupils get further education at the Baptist Comprehensive High School (BCHS) Njinikijem located 11 km from Mbingo itself where two teachers with good skills in American Sign Language Interpretation are permanently placed to help interpret lessons for the students.
The enrollment of ISFD has over the years evolved from its initial 22 pupils in the 2000/2001 academic year to 179 in the 2006/2007 academic year. In 2007, enrollment at the secondary level stood at 17. ISFD graduated its pioneer batch of 10 pupils in June 2006 with a 100% success rate at the Cameroon primary school certificate exams (First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC)). The institution has 10 teaching and 7 support staff.
Several international partners have been supportive of the CBC’s initiative in offering education to children with hearing impairments. In 2007, a 60-bed girls’ dormitory was completed and put into use with funding from the Dordrecht-Bamenda Foundation in Holland. Currently, Hearts for the Deaf USA is assisting the CBC in the construction of permanent classrooms for the institution. The Liliane Foundation in Holland and CBM provide funding to subsidize the fees of some children. In spite of generous support from partners and well-wishers, ISFD still has some pressing needs which hinder it from functioning in its full capacity as would have been expected. Some of these needs include the following:
- Development of the post-primary integration component at Baptist Comprehensive High School (BCHS) Njinikijem where 44 of its about 300 students are those with hearing impairments.
- Kitchen facilities, dining hall and furniture
- Additional funding to complete the permanent classrooms of the school.
Meeting these needs will be assisting persons with hearing impairments study effectively and efficiently.
3. Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) Project, Mbingo
The Community-Based Rehabilitation Services is a community outreach project of the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board (CBCHB). The CBR started in 1983 as an Agricultural center for the Rehabilitation of the Blind (ARB). In 1991, it grew to Community-Based Rehabilitation to re-establish people with other disabilities besides visual impairments to enable them incorporate themselves into their communities with ease.
The purpose of the project is to offer services to people with various disabilities and help them get full integration into their communities, and help others prevent disabilities through Primary Health Care and health education. The project accomplishes these tasks through field workers and volunteers who serve as catalysts in their communities with the help of parents and community members. The project staff also share the love of Christ with people in communities where they work so that people may come to His saving knowledge.
The CBR intervenes basically in three domains: Prevention of disabilities, Referral for Treatment and Vocational Rehabilitation at both center and community levels for daily living skills.
Target groups are people with visual impairments, mobility and other physical disabilities, hearing impairments, epilepsy, Hansen’s Disease, cerebral palsy, etc.
CBR is located within the Mbingo Baptist Hospital premises in Boyo Division of the North West Province. The project’s area of operation covers 4 of the 7 Divisions of the Province and hopefully will soon be extended to the other divisions. Since inception, it has reached over 13,000 persons with disabilities and given health talks to more than 100,000 people on the prevention of disabilities in several communities.
The program offers vocational rehabilitation training, which can either be community-based or center-based, in various fields as follows:
- Crafts (weaving baskets, fiber bags, cane chairs and cupboards)
- Agriculture (bee farming, gardening, crop production – cereals and tubers)
- Animal and poultry farming (chicken, pigs, goats and rabbits)
- Paid open apprenticeship training in communities for trainers who in the long run train other disabled people for free.
4 .Eye-Care Services
Eye care services in the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board (CHCHB) started at Banso Baptist Hospital in 1981. Today comprehensive eye-care services are offered in all CBCHB hospitals and 5 of its Health Centers. Beginning with a few patients consulting for various eye problems in the early 1980s, Eye Care services have expanded to consulting over 30,000 patients at both base hospital and outreach visits, providing surgery for various eye problems to some 1,500 patients and dispensing over 3,000 glasses in 2007.
The Mbingo Baptist Hospital Eye Department grew out of a partnership with the Eye Department of the Presbyterian Mission Hospital in Acha-Tugi, Momo Division of the North West Province. The first resident Ophthalmologist took up office at Mbingo Baptist Hospital (MBH) in April 1999. Since 2000, eye surgery has consistently been done in all CBCHB hospitals. Services provided by the Eye-care Department in CBCHB institutions include the following:
- Outpatient consultations from Mondays to Saturdays.
- Special outpatient services including
- Prescription and fitting of medical glasses,
- Diode Laser surgery for prevention of blindness from diabetic eye diseases and complications from high blood pressure,
- YAG laser surgery to prevent scarring vision after cataract surgery,
- Fundus photography for assessment and management of retina (black of the eye) diseases.
- Eye surgery for various eye conditions, most especially cataract and glaucoma.
- Primary Eye Care through a Community Outreach program to promote good eye health, treat common eye conditions, and refer serious cases to the nearest hospitals providing eye care services.