Ghana – Holistic Development Programme for Visually Impaired Children
About 1.5% of the Ghanaian population has a visual impairment. That is about 500,000 people; young and old. There is the will of the government to provide these people with good care and education. But how do you arrange that in a country with 37 million people, who live in 254 districts, each with their own laws and customs?
With help from the church
Ghana is a very Christian country. You see expressions of faith on every corner of the street, on every vehicle.
It is therefore almost self-evident that you arrive at the well-organised church to organise inclusive education. In this case, at the Presbyterian Health Services of Ghana, which maintains close contacts with the government and with which Visio already cooperated closely.
First step: focus
Aiming the arrows at all 254 districts at the same time is an illusion. So, it was decided to first concentrate on 6 districts, where they already have quite the number of facilities. These districts already have schools for the blind and schools with separate units for the visually impaired.
A second focus was on children aged 0 - 6, with the ambition defined to allow more children with a visual impairment to enter regular education.
Actions that Visio has taken together with the partner since the start of the programme in 2018 include, but are not limited to the following:
- Many schools in the selected districts already work with class assistants. These are people who are made available to support children with a disability. However, they do not have knowledge of visual limitations. They are now being trained on the matter.
- The challenge is to recognise visual limitations at the earliest age possible. To encourage that, key people from a community were brought together. People like tribal chiefs, nurses and social workers. Together they follow training courses in recognising visual limitations and understanding the importance of timely referral.
- An intensive lobby is taking place to make more money available from the government to purchase auxiliary materials, such as glasses, magnifiers, etc., of which there is a major shortage. And a chain is only as strong as its weakest link: if you do invest in training and screening, but not in materials, then that chain will sooner or later break down.
What is the biggest challenge in Ghana?
The laws are there. The structure to comply with those laws not yet. In a big country as Ghana, with that much diversity in districts and such a large percentage of children with visual impairments, that is a complex challenge.
The church is the connecting link. But at the same time, that also is the primary challenge for Visio: ensuring that the church starts owning the challenge. When that happens, if the church start making efforts to implement inclusive education proactively and if it gets the government to tag along, then beautiful things can happen in Ghana…