QEII Scholars Blog Series – “A Brighter Future for Children with Disabilities in Ghana”
Marking the third in this series is a piece contributed by Christiana Okyere.Christiana is a doctoral student at the School of Rehabilitation Therapy, focusing on international rehabilitation and community development. Prior to Queen’s, she worked with youth from disadvantaged backgrounds and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Ghana.
“A Brighter Future for Children with Disabilities in Ghana”
All children have the right to education and are able to learn, provided the education system recognises and supports their learning. The concept of access to education has evolved from a mere privilege to a right for all children; however, a majority of Ghanaian children with disabilities continue to face barriers in accessing education.
Children with disabilities are one of the most marginalized and excluded groups of people in the world (UNICEF, 2012). Education provides instrumental opportunities for children with disabilities to participate in social activities and to develop the skills needed for future employment; and thus, quality education for children with disabilities should be a priority for all countries (WHO & World Bank, 2011). However, children with disabilities form the largest group of readily identifiable children who have been, and continue to be, persistently excluded from education. It is estimated that, about 90% of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend schools (UNESCO, 2009). In Ghana, a majority of children with disabilities are excluded from educational opportunities (Anthony, 2011). Furthermore, these children with disabilities are often kept from public view by their families (Botts & Evans, 2010).
Ghana has adopted an Inclusive Education (IE) policy as a strategy to change the way that its marginalised children with disabilities are perceived, served and included in the education system. The IE policy is anchored in the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, and the Education Strategic Plan (2010-2020). The IE policy requires schools to respond to the diversity in learning needs of all children and ensure their physical, social, emotional and psychological environments are conducive for learning. Strategies proposed to achieve the IE policy include (a) the deployment of special education needs coordinators to direct targeted educational needs activities within inclusive schools; (b) the provision of teaching and learning materials that are accessible and fair for all; (c) the promotion of community and family involvement in school supervision and management; (d) the development and promotion of awareness programmes for children and the parents of children with disabilities, about their rights.
Ghana’s IE policy has resulted in the establishment of inclusive schools, however a brighter future for children with disabilities goes beyond policies and strategies. A conscious effort to remove attitudinal barriers such as intolerance is essential to an improved future for children with disabilities. Ghana is a hopeful country where continuous and unified efforts by community members, teachers, church leaders, traditional leaders, and government officials are gradually changing community perceptions of what children with disabilities can learn, achieve and contribute to their communities, the Ghanaian society and the world at large.
Anthony, J. (2011). Conceptualising disability in Ghana: Implications for EFA and inclusive education. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 15(10), 1073-1086.
Botts, B. H., & Evans, W. (2010). Ghana: Disability and spirituality. Journal of International Special Needs Education, 13, 32–39.
Ghana Statistical Service. (2012). 2010 Population & Housing Census: Summary Report of Final Results. Accra.
UNESCO. (2009). Reaching the marginalised – How to approach Inclusive Education. UNESCO.
International Conference, Düsseldorf, Germany, 10-11 September 2009.
UNICEF. (2012). The Right of Children with Disabilities to Education: A Rights-Based Approach to Inclusive Education. Retrieved February 02, 2016 from UNICEF: http://www.unicef.org/ceecis/IEPositionPaper_ENGLISH.pdf
World Health Organization (WHO) and World Bank, World Report on Disability, WHO and World Bank, Geneva, 2011.