On the 10th March, 2013 Patriots Ghana in Collaboration with CLED Ghana organised a community Forum on Campaign for Learning Disabilities to educate the community members on the causes, effects, prevention, and strategies on how learning disabilities can be managed to help minimize school dropout rate in the community as well as improve the learning ability and performance of school children in the Nyanfeku Akrowful community.
INTRODUCTION OF PROJECT
Campaigns for Learning Disabilities project works to support children and youth with learning disabilities have every opportunity to succeed in school, work and life. Patriots Ghana and CLED Ghana provides informational awareness and training to parents, teachers, stakeholders, communities and individuals with learning disabilities, promotes programs to foster effective learning and advocates for policies to safeguard and strengthen educational rights and opportunities for children/youth with learning disabilities.
Since its inception, the project has been run by passionate and devoted special educators, lecturers, parents and youth committed to creating better outcomes for children, and youth with learning disabilities. Patriots Ghana and CLED have also commitment to promoting the success and dignity of children suffering from learning disabilities, making Children with Learning Disabilities realize their full Potential.
BACKGROUND OF THE FORUM
An interview was conducted on knowledge and understanding of specific learning disabilities and behaviour problems for selected parents, teachers and other stakeholders in Nyanfeku Akrowful in the central region of Ghana. One of the outcomes showed that teachers, parents and community members have very little or no knowledge when it comes to pupils who suffer from Specific Learning Disabilities. As a result, teachers and parent are not able to identify the difficulties children encounter when they learn.
Our observational visit in Nyanfeku Akrowful Basic School also revealed that, the school system does not provide sufficient support to pupils with specific learning difficulties. Poverty, hate crime and lack of support have forced many children with learning disabilities to sacrifice education for streetism, child labour, early marriages, and other activities.
Furthermore, since 2007, the community has been recording about 50% failure in the Basic Education Certificate Examination. These factors prevent these children from accessing primary, Secondary and Vocational Education. These difficulties children encounter when learning could be minimized if early interventions are put in place. It is against this background that CLED and Patriots Ghana proposed a community forum and donation programme at Nyanfeku Akrowful in the Abura-Aseibu-Kwamankese District of the Central Region of Ghana to:
1. Increase awareness and understanding of community members on specific learning disabilities and support strategies
2. Increase sensitivity and responsiveness of community Duty-Bearers towards provision of community-based support system for children with learning disabilities
3. Reduce by 10% the rate parents’ use their children with learning disabilities for economic activities
4. Reduce the hate crime children with learning disabilities face in school and home and
5. Donate clothing articles to poverty ridden families of children with learning disabilities
THE FORUM ACTIVITIES
The forum was held on Sunday 10th March, 2013 at the community durbar grounds of Nyanfeku Akrowful between the hours 3:00pm to 5:40pm. The Chairperson of CLED Ghana Dr. Nana Ama Browne made an introductory address and purpose for the forum. The Programme Coordinator of CLED Mr. Padmore Abeku Quansah, presented a paper on specific learning disabilities, types, its causes, effects , prevention and management and support strategies.
Mr. Marten Ofori, a father of an eight year old girl with Down syndrome and learning disability gave a message of advice making participants aware and understand that children with learning disability have basic human right and they are very creative. He told the gathering that his daughter is very creative and entreated families to accept and understand the diversity of their children.
Mr. Eric Opoku Agyemang National Coordinator of Patriots Ghana also delivered a message of advice that children with learning disabilities can participate in all learning activities but needs differentiated instruction, patience and task analyzing their learning activities. He also called on participants to eschew the use of children with learning problems for economic activities.
Further, a message of advice from Susan Kellett (founder) Learning Disability Carers Community, UK, educated the gathering that Children with Learning Disabilities face challenges throughout their lives. But showing them love, encouragement and support will help to ensure that they develop a strong sense of self-worth, confidence and the determination to keep going even when things are tough. She also entreated parents to look for more areas in which their child will show gifts and talents and give their support for their education as is of paramount importance. Her message of advice was translated and read in the local dialect by Mr. Patrice John Couffie, a project volunteer of CLED.
In all participants were given platform to ask questions and their questions were addressed.
Mrs. Browne one of the key duty-bearers of the community, in her closing remarks entreated participants to make good use of knowledge gained at the forum.
With the support of Staff of DHL Global Forwarding, Ghana clothing items were donated to poverty stricken families of children with learning disabilities drawn from 6 electoral areas.
STATISTICS ON PARTICIPATION
a. CLED members present were 2 males and 1 female
b. Media (Metro TV staff) 2 males
c. Patriots Ghana Rep 1 male
d. Community Elders/duty bearers present were 23 men and 7 females
e. Community members present were 267 males and 233 females
f. Children present were 195
g. Guest parent present 1
h. Volunteers present 1
Total: 733 Participants
1. Community members are now aware and understand why some children have a discrepancy between the class placement and achievement level
2. Community members are now aware and have knowledge about learning disabilities, some types, causes, effects, management and support strategies.
3. A message of advice from Susan Kellett (founder) Learning Disability Carers Community, Uk, has made parents aware and understand that children with learning disabilities have different ability, talents and gifts which needs to be identified and developed as well as education is of paramount importance.
4. A message of advice from Mr. Marten Ofori, a father of an eight year old girl with Down syndrome and learning disability encouraged parental understanding and acceptance of children with learning disabilities.
5. Mr. Eric Opoku Agyemang National Coordinator of Patriots Ghana, made parents understand that differentiated instruction, patience and task analyze could be used help children with learning disabilities learn activities as well as the use of children with learning problems for economic activities will endanger their future.
6. Increased sensitivity and responsiveness of 30 community Duty-Bearers towards provision of community-based support system for children with learning disabilities. Hence a MOU signed with CLED to train community school teachers
7. 6 Electoral areas in the community have some clothing item to support poverty ridden families of children with learning disabilities.
8. An estimated 4million to 8million audience who watch Metro TV will also benefit from the forum.
Lateness among some community members derailed program processes.
Church services on the day presented a challenge as some churches were conducting fundraising activities, hence could not closed early from church and this pushed the forum one hour ahead.
Some community members could not attend
We learned through the questions and answers, interview sessions that, community members were having very little or no knowledge about Specific Learning Disabilities.
We also learnt that planning, implementing and evaluation programmme with community involvement especially beneficiaries court their commitment, trust, participation and make it community owned.
We further learnt that mobilizing community resources make programme community owned and cost effective.
We learnt, bringing parents of children with special needs to share experiences and a message of advice also promote parental acceptance, love and support
Last but not the least, we learnt that collaborating with other NGOs erase duplication of programme, resources and also create room for sharing experience and expertise.
CRITICAL ISSUES THAT CROPPED UP DURING THE FORUM
Interview with some children revealed that they face hate crime (e.g bullying, teasing etc) both at home and school because they have learning problems. And that some parents use them for economic activities.
COMMUNITY EXPECTATION AND THE WAY FORWARD
• A policy advocacy with the District Education Directorate
• Training of community school teachers on specific learning disabilities
• Forming Community-based parents support group
• School Based sensitization against learning disability hate crime
Even though, a day was grossly not enough period to achieve much with such program, the overwhelming response in the form of comments, questions and concerns raised by virtually all population segments of the participated beneficiaries and homes through post forum questions and answers, open discussions, and , phone-calls etc are a clear indication that a major and lasting impact has been made and require to be sustained and replicated so as to eventually reach the avowed target of improving wellbeing of children with learning problems and create continuity in their educational, social, vocational and cultural opportunities and integration.
• There should be more community-based education on Learning disabilities
• There should be advocacy forum targeting policy-makers and duty-bearers in the central region and Ghana as a whole
• In- service training for teachers must be done termly
• There should be formation of Community-Based Parents Support Groups
• There should be child right education
• Development partners should consider supporting and collaborating with NGOs working in the area of Learning Disabilities.
ATTACHMENT AND APPENDIX
1. Responses of some participants
Comfort Baidoo (community member), when interviewed after the forum said, those who spoke did well because when you give birth to a child you should take good care of him or her as you might not know the future. She further said I have learnt some new things that every child is unique individual and has potential and my advice is that All parents should take care of their children.
Augustina Esi (community member), when interviewed after the forum said, in fact I am happy about this programme because I have learnt that each child can perform well when given the needed attention. The new thing I have learnt is that no matter how the child is do well to educate him or her. The programme was successful and I have learnt a lot.
Mr. Marten Ofori, a father of an eight year old girl with Down syndrome and learning disability, when interviewed after the forum said, I benefited from the forum because it has added to my store of knowledge in management of my daughter and love to see more of these programme to safeguard the right of children with special needs.
Below Are Some Contacts For Forum Verification
Mrs. Browne Assembly woman:
Mr. Gregory S. Acquah community elder and secretary: +233 542886255
Mr. Charles Yeboah (Teacher): +233 243648793
Mr. Cornelius Nortey (Metro TV Correspondent): +233 246579218
Mr. Eric Opoku Agyemang (Projects Director of Patriots Ghana):+233 262626182
MR. PADMORE QUANSAH +233 249199499
Please visit the Flickr link below to see more pictures of the event