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Early identification and intervention, critical to improving lives of children with disabilities – CfC

Mr Richard Opoku, a Global Inclusion and Safeguarding Lead at Chance for Childhood, has called on the Ministry of Education to prioritise the

implementation of Ghana’s Inclusive Education Policy by committing adequate funding to make inclusiveness a reality.

He also urged the Ghana Education Service to ensure that per the provisions of the Inclusive Education Policy, screening was conducted for every child who enrolled in primary school.

That, he said, would ensure early identification, referrals, and assessment of disabilities in children and adequate support.

‘Early detection will also ensure that all children with disabilities receive early and right intervening services to succeed in school and life,’ he added.

Mr Opoku, who made the call in an interview with GNA, said most children with disabilities were out of school due to the fear of stigmatisation and lack of family support.

Also, lack of capacity in many basic schools to give the necessary help to children with disabilities is hindering child
ren with such challenges from being out of school.

According to the World Health Organisation, there are about 150 million children with disabilities worldwide. About 120 million of these children, representing 80 per cent, are in developing countries, and less than 1.2 million (10%) go to school.

Mr Opoku noted in Ghana, there were an estimated 130,000 children with disabilities, but the figure could be quite higher, because not all children with disabilities are known.

‘Averagely, only one out of every six children with disabilities are in school. It means that for each child with a disability who attends school, there are five others who do not get education’.

He said: ‘There are also many children who are in school but not learning because they have a disability or different learning need such as Dyslexia (reading and learning difficulties), but it is not identified at an early stage.

‘Other learning difficulties affect other areas of learning. But very often these types of disabilities are overlooke
d, and the child is left to struggle on their own.

He said it was important that disabilities in children were identified as early as possible through screening and assessment for disabilities and other special needs to give adequate support for those who would need it.

‘There are many studies that show that children who have been identified early are much more likely to get the help they need. They are better able to achieve at grade level, have fewer behavioural problems and develop social and emotional skills,’ he noted.

In 2015, the Ministry of Education launched the Inclusive Education Policy. This Policy is to ensure that all children with special needs in Ghana have access to education, including children with disabilities and children who are out of school for other reasons.

The Policy prescribes that children with mild and moderate disabilities should be enrolled in mainstream schools. The special schools can only enroll children with severe disabilities and provide expertise services to the scho
ols in their vicinity.

The Inclusive Education Policy also emphasises the importance of screening and assessment, to identify diverse needs in children at an early stage. It states that ‘all schools should undertake early identification, referral and intervention through periodic screening of all learners.’

The policy further highlights that every child in primary school shall undergo an assessment twice every year, and assessment results shared with the parents. This provision in the policy is, however, yet to be fully implemented.

Chance for Childhood is a child-centered NGO working to promote a safe school environment and inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream education.

Source: Ghana News Agency

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