November 10, 2020 marked another milestone in the work of the CBC Health Services to persons with disabilities. The day witnessed the official launching of a Scholarship Service for Children and Youths with Disabilities in Cameroon managed by the Services for Persons with Disability (SPD) program of the CBC Health Services. The scholarship is run with funds donated by Organisations and individuals with interest in specific disability areas.
The launching took place virtually in respect to COVID-19 preventive measures and brought together potential donors and beneficiaries of the Scholarship from within and out of Cameroon. The Director of the CBC Health Services, Prof. Tih Pius Muffih used the occasion to present background information on the work of the institution with respect to support for children with disabilities in general and education in particular.
In his succinct presentation, he highlighted that the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services is noted for its Promotion of the Right to Education for Persons with Disabilities since the 70s. Thus, CBC Health Services’ journey alongside persons with disabilities started three decades back. The institution initially began supporting children with disabilities as part of its mission towards vulnerable groups. In those early days, the support was essentially limited to health care. Over time, the CBCHS identified other critical challenges faced by persons with disabilities, including education. Then, to address the educational needs of persons with disabilities and for ensuring holistic and more strategic responses to the academic gap observed, the CBCHS created in 1981 the Integrated School for the Blind, based in Kumbo, and later in 2001, added the Integrated School for the Deaf in Mbingo.
With support from the Christofell Blinden Mission (CBM), the CBCHS piloted an Inclusive Education project in the Northwest region in 2010 which results were later used to inform robust national-level advocacy for inclusive education. Since 2014, the Netherlands based Liliane Fonds (LF) has supported the CBCHS in its noble mission towards promoting the education of children with disabilities in Cameroon. Through this support, the CBCHS has continued expanding its services towards children with disabilities, including direct educational support to needy children from birth to 25 years and strengthening some 24 LF grantee Partner Organizations providing education to children with disabilities in eight regions of Cameroon.
Overall, the CBCHS has remained a key partner to the government, ensuring good health for people and socio-economic empowerment with various impairments. Since engaging on this challenging path, the CBCHS has made great efforts in offering children with disabilities opportunities to fully access education as a right in Cameroon.
Therefore, this Scholarship Service translates the CBCHS’ resolve to keep looking for ways to improve the lives of persons with disabilities. Many of these children have dreams, sound intellectual capabilities, and academic prowess. Yet, they lack the means to harness their knowledge and skills to become that doctor, pilot, engineer, academic, writer, and what have you, for financial reasons. Through this Scholarship scheme, destitute children with disabilities will have the opportunity to enjoy their fundamental right to education, and reduce the education and opportunities gap between children and youths with disabilities and their peers without disabilities.
The Scholarship Service is operating six scholarship schemes beginning with the Wil Schijvershof Scholarship for deaf girls in primary schools in the Northwest Region of Cameroon and the Blind Scholarship for Learners with severe to profound visual impairment irrespective of sex and level of education in Cameroon.
According to the World Health Organization, there are one billion persons with disabilities worldwide, 150 million of whom are children. The majority of these are children with disabilities from low-income families. In most cases, these children are considered uneducable. Experience has proven that with the right environment, structures, attitudes, and pedagogic strategies in place, these children can and do learn. This Scholarship will therefore give the children a right to inclusive education and contribute to inclusive societies.