"Disability is not Inability"
The title of this blog entry is a phrase we have repeatedly heard during our time in Ghana. One might find this strange since we have learned throughout our coursework that in Ghana, having a child with a disability is often perceived as a curse or punishment for wrong doing. We were first introduced to this phrase at the professional development workshop we participated in with the unit school teachers. Many of the teachers cited this phrase in a survey they completed at the end of the session. It was further expressed this morning by Dr. Anthony Kwaku Edusei PhD., a project manager in the Masters program at the Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies (CEDRES) at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST). He graciously gave us a tour of the facility and information about their programs.
The Centre, the only facility of its kind in Ghana, focuses on training professionals and conducting research within the field of special education and disability. They are trying to create opportunities and improve quality of life for the disabled population. Albert Osei Bagyina, one of the speech-language therapists in Ghana who we have been working with over the past several years is a lecturer at this center. The students who typically enter the Masters program have backgrounds in health, law, social work and education. Our esteemed colleague, Belinda Bukari, is currently enrolled in this Masters program. We had the opportunity to wish her and her fellow students luck before their final exams!
Dr. Anthony Kwaku Edusei explained that in addition to the Masters program, the school is offering an undergraduate degree in special education. A short training program is also available for those who wish to learn more about working with individuals with disabilities. Parents are encouraged to enroll in this coursework to increase their confidence when caring for their children with disabilities. The center is collaborating with the greater university community to increase awareness and acceptance of children and adults with disabilities. CEDRES is now offering an elective class to all undergraduates at KNUST that focuses on improving attitudes toward disability as part of their special outreach initiative. It is clear that their efforts have been effective as Dr. Anthony Kwaku Edusei stated that the response from the community to CEDRES has been overwhelmingly positive. Our group was pleasantly surprised and overjoyed to learn that the view of individuals with disabilities in Ghana is beginning to change. In Ghana, disability will no longer be perceived as inability.
"Next Stop.. School"
As we arrived at the Unit School for our third and final day, excitement filled the air as we were greeted by smiling faces and warm hugs. The children were eager to start the new school day with us as they quickly found their seats. One of the teachers explained that several students did not attend school due to the “cold weather”. For those of you currently experiencing the North East winter, a cold Ghanaian day is 75 degrees… jealous? We continued to work closely and collaboratively with the teachers to build and expand the curriculum and concepts of the past two days. During attendance the children jumped out of their seats when they recognized their personal nametags. Later, these nametags were used to teach additional concepts. We were excited to see the curriculum that was created by previous groups from Teachers College continue to thrive.
The students proceeded to work on various activities developing their writing and language skills. We used a multisensory approach through reading, singing, writing and movement. We were extremely impressed with the children’s high level of engagement within each task. We worked with the teachers and modeled new interactive ways to use the material. The group integrated the previously learned concepts to ensure future mastery and sustainability. Next, we separated into small groups. We modified the new games funded by Wyncote Foundation that the teachers received at the professional development retreat this past Saturday. We incorporated many concepts into these games such as categorization, number concepts, matching and prepositions. It was evident the children were enjoying themselves, seen through their ear-to-ear smiles. Many of the general education students were intently watching the lesson through the window, assisting and encouraging the students in our classroom. This was so exciting to witness as it displayed an increased acceptance and awareness of students with disabilities. As our short school day came to an end (did you know Ghanaian school days end at 12:30 pm), we left with a sense of inspiration and encouragement from the interactions we had with the teachers and students.
Cleft Lip and Palate in Kumasi
It was a busy afternoon for the team, as they saw 19 patients back-to back! Of the 19 patients seen, there were several that stood out as especially interesting cases. One infant, just weeks old, presented with a bilateral cleft of the lip and palate. The doctor informed us that his weight was not the required 10 pounds needed for reconstructive surgery, so he had several more months to go before having his lip repaired. However this child was very engaging as he made eye contact and even smiled to several of us in the group. Another interesting case was a little boy who came with his mother. The child was scheduled for a surgery in the next couple of weeks, as he presented with a unilateral cleft of the primary palate. Dr. Obiriyeb informed all of us that after repairing the child’s cleft lip, he was going to “begin working with the mother.” This boy’s mother had tempromandibular stenosis, meaning the jaw had fused together so that she couldn’t open it for speech or eating. We were all amazed when thinking about how she has dealt with such a condition. The last patient that was seen was a little boy who had undergone major surgery that involved a resection of a portion of the face due to an infection that spread, as well as reconstructive surgery of the face. During the assessment, we were able to observe the patient being decannulated from the tracheostomy tube, which was especially interesting for those of us hoping to go into the medical field. All in all, this afternoon was excellent experience and preparation for Thursday, which involved more cleft lip and palate therapy!