Ogun Education Policy: Making Life Bearable For Special Needs Students - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE

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Friday, March 11, 2022

Ogun Education Policy: Making Life Bearable For Special Needs Students





The Daily Crucible | Friday, March 11, 2022

By Ayoola Obadimu

A child with special needs is known as "Akanda Omo" in the Western part of Nigeria. He or she is classified in this nomenclature due to the unique nature of his or her birth. A child with special needs usually has specific learning problem or disability that makes learning more difficult than for his or her peers.

According to wikipedia, special needs are the needs for special care, special services, or special accommodation for children with disabilities. They usually  have problem with school work, challenges with communication, issues with  behaviour among other things that may not be in agreement with others, and therefore need special attention in training for them  to achieve their set objectives in life. Some of the children classified under special needs may include children with hearing impairment, visual challenge, walking disability, dumbness and learning difficulty.

Findings show that most children born with these conditions are not accorded due respect in society as they are often ignored. This may worsen their health conditions and expose them to stigmatization. They often become street beggars and dropouts  in the society.

An education expert, Mr. Oluwole Majekodunmi, Director of Special Needs Education in Ogun State, posited that children with special needs should be given adequate attention  by  sending them to formal school for proper academic  training as they are teachable and capable of fulfilling their  destiny.

People should refrain from using derogatory words such as "disabled" or "handicapped" to describe them, but they should be regarded with dignity and treated equally with other children. Many of them are loaded with great potentials. In Ogun State, for example, the present administration of Governor Dapo Abiodun has strategically put in place measures and policies targeted at promoting the wellbeing and wellness of children with special needs in the state. The first step the government took  in this regard  was the complete renovation of the five schools for Special Needs Children, namely: Daniel Akintonde Model School for Children with Special Needs, Adigbe, Abeokuta; School for Children  with Special Needs, Ilaro; School for Children with Special Needs, Sagamu; School for Children with Special Needs, Ijebu-Ode; Ade-Okubanjo Model School for the Visually Challenged, Ijebu-Igbo.  

There is no argument about the efforts of  other governors at promoting the well-being of children with special needs in their  various states,  but recent reports revealed that Governor Abiodun has gone extra miles as evidence in his massive transformation projects ranging from provision of standard  accommodation, training in skill acquisition,  provision of reading and tools among others for their well-being of special needs pupils, in line with the inclusive Education Policy of the Federal Government.  

As a matter of fact, it was discovered that, before the  inception of the present administration, all the Special Needs Schools were neglected and this led to system  collapse with manifestation of    challenges such as poor feeding condition, poor accommodation, low provision of assistive devices, to mention but few. Within two and half years of inception of the present administration, they have recorded great improvement in the learners' welfare as they now enjoy a conducive atmosphere for learning and better living.

In pursuance of the policy targeted at creating a dignified life for children with special needs, Governor Abiodun re-established the Ogun State Braille Book Production Centre within two years of his administration to enhance the academic skills and human capacity of visually impaired learners. This was a centre that was established about 15 years ago but could not produce a single book. At the moment,  the Braille Book Production Centre has been recalibrated and is serving to provide literacy education for the visually impaired, production of textbooks for learners, equipping school and public libraries for reading and consultations. The center is also being used for Braille Book Production, printing of Unified Examination Questions for visually impaired learners, provision of Braille materials for private schools, and provision of consulting services on Braille materials to private individuals. The centre has also  produced Braille textbooks for the visually impaired learners in the primary and secondary schools in the state. 

In addition to this, the State  government also  donated  34 White Canes (walking sticks) to aid the mobility of students with visual impairment and collaborated with Christoffel Blind Mission in the years 2019 and 2020 to conduct free eye surgeries, treatment and provide eye glasses for learners with different vision challenges in all the 20 Local Government Areas of the State so as to make their  academic lives more impactful. 

 A report revealed  that the Governor  graciously approved the purchase and distribution  of a total of fifty-five (55) wheel chairs  to learners with limb challenges  across the State due to his recognition of  the need for inclusive education in the lives of people living with disabilities. This kind gesture aided their independence in mobility and promoted their full confidence in society. And in January 2021, Governor Abiodun approved a 50 percent increase in feeding allowances for learners in Special Needs Schools to improve their well-being and ease their feeding expenses.

A visit to some of these schools revealed the  ongoing massive  infrastructural development such as; renovation of boys’ and girls' hostels, supply of mattresses, construction of modern toilets, construction of modern kitchens, construction and reconstruction of perimeter fencing, renovation and construction of classrooms, supply of kitchen utensils and many more across the  Senatorial Districts of the State. In ensuring perfection, the State government further released a total sum of Twenty Five Million Naira (N25,000,000.00), to build more classrooms, rehabilitate existing ones, buy more chairs and tables, provide more toilet facilities, establish Information and Communication Technology rooms, provide more electronic interactive boards and renovate and construct more staff quarters with befitting furniture.

In addition, the State government, through the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology in Ogun State  included skill and vocational acquisition training in the curriculum of the special needs schools where students would be trained in different trade subjects such as; beads making, sewing, hair dressing, leather works and music to make them self-reliant, independent and employers of labour.

The efforts of the present administration in improving the well-being of children with special needs have been commended for bringing  great relief to the affected families with special needs children. Findings showed that enrolment has doubled in most of these schools, unlike in the past. Even with the plausible step being  taken by  the State government in promoting their wellness through  the commencement  of sporting competitions in various  schools. Experts say that Sporting activities, if well implemented, will  expose special needs learners to various  sporting activities in their  schools. It will help discover new talents in them, build their self esteem and expose them to other sources of livelihood that may qualify them as future representatives, not only of the State but also at the National and International Paralympic games.

In line with the "Building Our Future Together" mantra of the present administration in Ogun State, it was made known that many stakeholders and  spirited citizens, both at home and in diaspora, have been inspired to extend their hands of love to children with special needs by collaborating with the state government to impact lives . One of the kind gestures  of well-meaning citizens of the State was the donation of a Sienna mini van to Special Needs School, Ijebu-Ode, by the Omo Obanta Association in the US. A gift facilitated by the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Abayomi Arigbabu, while still  serving as Vice Chancellor, Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun. Others with like minds were: Egbe Jagunmolu Okunrin Fehintade Akile Ijebu-Ode that sponsored the renovation of toilets, boys' hostels, three blocks of classrooms, and supplied dining utensils to the school, among others.

Be that as it may, let us join hands with the present administration in its determination to improve the wellness of children with special needs in our society. This support will go a long way not only in sustaining the academic standard  known with the state, but also open a new chapter of exemplary leadership amongst its peers across the country for providing dignified life and rekindling hope for special needs children in Ogun State.

Obadimu is the Press Officer, Ogun State Ministry of Education Science & Technology.


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