Sunday, January 9, 2011
After a relaxing night in Ho, we began our journey to a unit school in Nkawkaw. On the bus ride to Nkawkaw, we passed a myriad of communities separated by lush forests. The communities all contained naturally-made shacks where the villagers sold fruits and vegetables, bags of purified water and other knickknacks. We stopped at one road side stand where we tried a local favorite, Xboloo, cornmeal smoked in banana leaves with shellfish. Traffic, bathroom breaks and the condition of the roads delayed our arrival at the unit school. We arrived at 2:00 and were introduced to Clement Ntim, who had been waiting with his students and students’ parents since 12:30. Clement was nominated 2010 Special Education Teacher of the Year for the work he has done in the Nkawkaw unit school. Clement’s mission, similar to our mission at Teachers College, Columbia University, is to educate, not only students and parents, but fellow colleagues in order to assure that all persons receive quality services. Last year, Clement organized a professional development team with over 100 teachers from various locations in Ghana.
The Nkawkaw unit school meets in a small, dark building. We were greeted by over 20 smiling children and many more welcoming hands. The materials closet was empty as schools for children with disabilities are given limited funding from the government. The room was filled with posters of activities of daily living (e.g., going to the bathroom) and communication strategies (e.g., greeting someone with a hug). Clement reported that the majority of the students were able to utilize these posters despite their moderately severe to severe disabilities. Our role was to provide quick speech evaluations and strategies to improve the communication needs of each child. The stigma towards children born with disabilities was evident in some cases. One parent stated that he did not believe children in the United States were born with disabilities and others asserted they, or their child, had been cursed. Therefore, we also offered the parents facts about disabilities. We made identification cards for the students out of simple index cards laminated with packing tape. We also provided Clement an Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) binder with teaching materials. Additionally, three of the students presented with hearing loss, but were not previously able, due to lack of transportation and/or general knowledge, to have their child’s hearing tested. Therefore, we made arrangements with the parents of these children and the closest hospitals. We also worked with the students in the classroom, teaching new songs with movements, including “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Head Shoulders Knees Toes,” and “B-I-N-G-O.” The students were eager to learn these tunes, in addition to teaching us their own.
The students, parents and teachers displayed their gratitude with a prayer—giving us thanks and their best wishes for the remainder of our time in Ghana. We then continued on our journey to Kumasi where we are spending our nights at the KNUST School of Engineering Guest House. After settling into our rooms, we held class in the conference room to speak about our experiences at the Nkawkaw unit school.
- Written by Jacqueline Schmieder
Posted by Elaine at 10:33 PM