I had an insightful conversation with a family that has, raised a 28-year old boy with cerebral palsy. As a way of giving back to society the family has decided to be fully committed to advocacy issues on cerebral palsy
They had come to see me to discuss possible advocacy issues – sharing the journey of their son with me. The sister of this young man said something that I could not stop pondering over.
Alberta, a senior sister to Nii, the young man living with cerebral palsy said: « I think inclusiveness is the best therapy we can give to children with cerebral palsy. »
Alberta explained : « We lived in a house with our uncles, aunties and cousins, there were a lot of children around, my brother Nii played with us, he was challenged to do things for himself, we had one cousin who was always running, he was also a boy, Nii wanted to play with him, so he forced himself to run, when we were young, you will always see him (Nii) with bruises around the mouth, he fell many times but I guess that is what challenged him to do things for himself. »
Ghana is currently talking inclusive education – a system of education where all students regardless of their needs are welcomed by their neighbourhood schools in age-appropriate regular classes and supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of the life of the school.
Inclusive education is about how we develop and design our schools, classrooms, programmes and activities so that all students learn and participate together.
Experts in education speak about the enormous benefits of inclusive education – the ability to develop the individual strengths and gifts, involvement of parents in the education of their children, fostering a school culture of respect and belonging and the opportunity to learn about and accept individual differences, lessening the impact of harassment and bullying.
Inclusive education has the potential to positively affect both the school and the community, to appreciate diversity and inclusion.
In Ghana, many teachers continue to wonder if it could be possible to fully implement inclusive education. There are some who think that children with special needs, especially those with disabilities should be separated since they have a tendency of slowing the academic work and pulling back the regular ones.
Many parents of children with cerebral palsy, however, are thinking differently and have been calling for inclusive education.
One of them has this to say, « I do not expect my child with cerebral palsy to score 100 per cent, I just want a social life for my child, I know my child is intelligent and will excel at his own pace. »
Another added, « My child with cerebral palsy lives together in the house with her other siblings, they play with her, they heckle her and they treat her as their sibling, I see that my daughter has really improved in terms of her responses because of her siblings.
She said, children with cerebral palsy, especially, need to be in mainstream school. They have movement issues but most of the time, their brain is intact, they can learn.
Inclusive education is possible, it is the willingness of the school and staff to accept children with cerebral palsy that is left, said one other parent.