By Tobias Lengnan Dapam
Children the world over are passing through turbulent times; ranging from child abuse, molestation and other heinous crimes targeted at the children. But in the midsts of all these, children with special needs suffer more forms of humiliation and lack of acceptance in to society.
But while the trend has changed in most countries, Nigeria is finding it hard to give the children with special needs a place in the society. What is even more shocking is the lackadaisical attitude of government to give them a place despite the signing of the disability bill in to law.
As a result of this, many parents of special children who can’t afford to take care of them often kill the children to relieve themselves of the burden.
While the loses are still being counted, and those at the helms of affairs continue to look at the issue with jaundiced eyes, a nongovernmental Organisation, the Engraced Ones Prayer/Advocacy group, has intensified its campaign for inclusion of children with special needs in to mainstream schools.
The NGO had been at the forefront of the campaign for inclusive learning for all forms of children.
The NGO believes that children, regardless of their forms should be accepted equally in the society.
Speaking to mark the Children’s day recently, the coordinator of the NGO, Mrs. Bibora Yinkere said some parents have not yet come to terms with certain realities about their children. “When I discovered this, I talked to them and ask if they visited the hospital; this is because their issue affects the mental ability of the family. Some parents withdraw when they discover this. They withdraw completely from society, and we try to talk to them and bring them out of the situation. We advice them to go to hospital and accept the child for who he is and also ensure his/her education.
“We also know that the education of these children is very expensive and their parents who are not working cannot afford to pay for their education”.
She argued that to give the children a brighter future, inclusive education for all children was the best way of uniting children in the country.
She said children should not be discriminated because of their disabilities but should be treated as equals in schools and public places.
“We are advocating for inclusive education in the country and we want children with disabilities to have a place in our mainstream schools. They should not be treated differently. They should be accommodated and be seen like other children.
We also want schools to partner with us to ensure the success and sustainability of inclusive education in the country.”
She further expressed worry that most of the children are not in school, urging constituted authorities in the country to take a giant step to put an end to the plight of children with disabilities.
While speaking about School of Grace initiated by the parents of children with disabilities, the coordinator said the school will soon commence with programme that will be beneficial to the parents and children.
“The school will counsel and train them on various skills. Most of these mothers are not working; we need to train them to have something better for themselves.”
Also speaking, Mrs Gbemisola Alade, who also has a child with special need said
“We are here to steer up the advocacy part for inclusive education that will allow our children to learn with other children without discrimination.”
She said inclusive education will motivate them to do exploits in various fields.
“There are a lot of great Nigerians with disabilities who went to mainstream schools and turned out to be the best. We want the same to be replicated in to the system of education now so that we will collectively work together to ensure a better society for our children.”
On her part, the Initiator, CAPWD inclusive nursery and primary school in disability Colony Karmajiji, FCT – Abuja, Mrs. Omotunde Thompson, said “The country’s national policy talks about inclusion of children with disability. It also stressed formal or informal setting to strengthen their skills, that is why there are vocational centers.
“No child is useless. We need to intensify campaign to parents of the children who are poor and in rural areas. I would advice that information dissemination should be carried out.”
She said with the disability bill in place, “there is more to be done, we don’t need to write them off, we need to encourage and work along with them. Disability is a fraction and not total. Some don’t have the courage. This is an awareness to the society. Govt should ensure special budgetary for children with disability. The government should utilize it.”
Speaking earlier, the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chapter, commended the organizers of the programme and urged them to continue to support children with needs.
The Assistant Director, Special Duties of the agency, Chinwe Ikaraoha who represented the DG said with the signing in to law of the disability bill, the children with special needs will have a role to play in the current government.
While urging the public to support them, she said the agency on its part will key in to the campaign and ensure sensitization of the public to understand these challenges and how to address them.