Imagine an additional 151 children, abandoned at home, not going to school because of their disabilities. As if that is not enough, they are left alone to wallow not only in the pain of not having a normal life style like other kids but also their parents keep asking God why? Did you know that the society makes it all the more challenging by under-looking both the parents and Children with Disabilities?
Before the introduction of the Sustainable Inclusive Education Project – SIEP of the CBC Health Services and the CBC Education Department sponsored by the Liliane Fonds, many children with disabilities had dashed hopes on going to school because of the limited number of Inclusive schools as well as their accessibility. In some cases, the closed down of schools as a result of the socio political crisis in the country rendered the situation even more challenging. It is sad to say many parents with and Children with Disabilities are still left in this dilemma.
With the specific objective to increase access to quality inclusive education for children with disabilities, the SIEP was launched in 2017. Parents and children with disabilities began to smile because an opportunity to send their children to school again or for the first time had been given them.
At its inception, the Pilot Centers included the CBC School Complex Nkwen, CBC Nursery/Primary School Nkwen, and the Baptist Comprehensive High School (BCHS) Nkwen, BCHS Njinikejem, Baptist Teacher Training College (BTTC) Ndop, and the CBC Nursery and Primary School Bamunka Ndop. Due to the ongoing socio-political crisis rocking the Northwest and Southwest regions, the Centers of Ndop and Belo could not go operational. However, this opened a new window with the extension of pilot centers to CBC Schools in the West Region namely: CBC Nursery and Primary Schools Bafoussam, Foumbot, Koutaba and Magba, giving many more children the opportunity to go to school.
Today, some 151 children with disabilities are actually admitted in CBC Nursery, Primary and Secondary Schools in the North West and West Regions of the country. Among them are 73 boys and 78 girls with impairments ranging from speech, physical, hearing, visual, cerebral palsy, dwarfism, Down syndrome, foot deformity, albinism and low vision, mental instability, watery eyes as well as other multiple forms of disabilities.
As a result of these interventions, parents and children with Disabilities have rekindled hope for a better future for them.
Patrick (in wheel chair) acquiring knowledge in the same classroom alongside his peers
The SIEP Communication Officer caught up with the grandmother of Patrick, a 6 year old little boy with cerebral palsy and she could not withhold her joy. She expresses that before now, Patrick was not going to school because all the schools she had visited told her that her grandson didn’t have a place in their school.
“Presently I am feeling so happy and that is the same way Patrick feels because he really had the desire to go to school but there was no school that accepted him,” the mother rejoiced. How it all came about, she said, “I was sharing my frustration with a doctor at the hospital that my grandson wants to go to school but there is no school for him. He then referred me to bring him to CBC School Nkwen. With the excitement, the very next day, I took Patrick and his chair to School. I make sure he is in school every day. I remember when I started taking him to school, people in my neighborhood were asking where I am taking that kind of “thing” to, what can he do? Will I be able? They asked many questions to discourage me but I am even stronger in taking my grandson to school. I am sure they are the ones who are ashamed now that he is in school and doing well”.
Patrick and grand mother happily share their joys with SIEP Communication
Claudette is an orphan of 23 years, another pupil at the CBC Primary School Nkwen. She has not been to school since the age of about 7 says the aunt who is now acting as the mother of Claudette. She recounts that “the family discovered her disability due to reports from school that she had a destructive spirit. She was checked by medical doctors in different hospitals and confirmed she had no problem. Because of the reports from school about her destructions, she stopped going to school which made us all feel bad. Today, Claudette is a pupil of Primary one at the CBC School, thanks to awareness from the project. I am the most grateful mother. I usually feel guilty of depriving my daughter from schooling even as an educationist who knew children with disabilities deserve a chance. I am happy she is not in a school where everyone has a disability because she likes imitating children a lot. I believe going to school will help her not to feel the absence of her parents”.
Claudette in an interactive lesson with her teacher
Both parents as well as many others are grateful to the sponsors of the project for institutionalizing inclusion in CBC Schools; with the added advantage that they are mission schools who offer the education of the heart. “Thank you and let God bless you,” are the words on their lips.
These are just a few among the many happy stories of parents whose children were left at home because of their disabilities. Now they have an opportunity to study alongside other children without disabilities, all thanks to the Sustainable Inclusive Education Project funded by the Liliane Foundation.
By Freida Fanda