Imagine being born, without any fault of yours, with a disability that haunts you for the rest of your life.
Okay, if this is not enough for you, picture additionally, having to live everyday knowing even the persons who brought you into the world are unwilling to accept your fate and help you through it.
They call it a case of mistaken identity, most of them opt for denial, forgetting that these people have lives and feelings.
These are children, children who have an equal right to education and the joys of childhood but whose hopes and dreams are dwindling every day because the world is adding to their already challenging lives.
Neglect and poverty is on the high on the part of many parents and guardians in charge of students at the School for the deaf and dumb in the Volta Region.
As Headmaster of the school would say, many of them are ‘dumped’ by their parents in the school and ‘parcelled’ like gifts for drop-offs by the school’s bus when it’s time for vacation.
It’s a bucket of emotions when school vacates and these mute students have to go home.
But the only place where they can build their ‘world’ and live their dreams happily is also deteriorating and dying away; The Volta School for the Deaf.
The school has old and dilapidated structures, including the toilet and bath facilities.
In fact, you wouldn’t miss traces of faecal matter on your way to a seven-doored structure with pits as old as the school when going to the toilet facility the students are to use at the school.
There are not enough books and teaching materials to handle the individual needs of these kids.
Feeding grants, provided by government and meant to help ease the burden of funding for food for these children, are almost always delayed. In cases like this, they have to resort to what they call a school farm; plant crops including cassava they’ve managed to plant in fertile parts of the school’s land, to feed these children until monies arrive.
For meat, Ghanaweb’s visit to the school showed only one ‘grandfather’ pig left in a sty which according to authorities were used to supplement the school’s protein source when feeding grants delayed.
It’s not a very different situation for teachers of the school who are overburdened with teaching these special needs children because there is a huge deficiency with the teacher to student ratio.
With abled students even, it is hard enough if the students are more than the teachers can take, now picture having to deal with the same situation with children who are deaf, dumb and in some cases have multiple disabilities.
Like Headmaster of the school, Dr Michael Castro Mawuli Cudjoe, explained to Ghanaweb.com during an interview “unlike the abled person, once the teacher leaves the front of the class, it’s light off” for these mute students.
Having to study the same syllabus as abled persons, within the same stipulated period is not an easy task. It has become even more difficult for these students because there are not enough teachers and materials to do this.
“Most of these children, their parents are not well to do and so they don’t leave them with anything (provision), they easily become distracted when you are teaching so I have to get them something small like bread from the house or something so they can concentrate and then we move on,” a teacher, Amen Bright said.
Then there is the lack of a vocational school, one of the school’s biggest problems.
Mr. Cudjoe explaining the role of the vocational school noted that it was one of the school’s greatest strongholds because it is what, aside the regular syllabus which they learn, equips them with skills to be independent outside school and be ready for a world where kids such as these getting white-colour jobs are almost impossible.
He narrated how some old students of the school have become wanderers, and left to the mockery and mercy of men who want to exploit them because they could not get basic vocational skills including carpentry, sewing, hairdressing, which could at least have given them a chance to start up small businesses on their own, something that could bring them regular income.
“We want our vocational school developed so we can learn carpentry, sewing, hair barbering and others”, the words of Raymond, Boys Prefect at the school. The fate and dreams of these brilliant special needs students hang in limbo till help comes their way.
While the custodians of the school wait with bated breath for governmental intervention, they sure could do with some act of benevolence on the part of corporate Ghana, NGO’s and well-meaning Ghanaians who are touched by their plight and want to help.
All donors can contact Ghanaweb at firstname.lastname@example.org to get through to authorities of the school.