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Regional News of Friday, 25 January 2013

Source: Ursula Owusu

Ursula Owusu Tackles AMA's New Century Career Training Institute

On Demolishing Of School Meant For Kids With Special Needs

Unknown to most people, a 3 classroom block tucked away in a corner of the Dansoman 1&2 cluster of schools at Sahara housed the school for children with special needs and provided a welcome break for these physically and intellectually challenged children.

Their dedicated and overstretched teachers provided some form of instruction and basic tuition to prepare them for life with very limited teaching and learning aids but from toddlers to teenagers, that school gave them all a common bond, lasting friendships and something to break the monotony of their daily lives.

I chanced upon the Dansoman Special school when I donated exercise books and refreshments to the able bodied school kids on my birthday 2 years ago and pledged to support them to improve the conditions of teaching and learning in the school.

It was therefore with great shock and dismay that I learnt that the entire school had been demolished without providing alternative accommodation for the pupils who were receiving instruction there.

My enquiries revealed that the adjoining,ultramodern New Century Career Institute, built by the Chinese over a decade ago, needed land to expand their facilities and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly headed by Alfred Oko Vanderpuije, had taken over the land belonging to the cluster of schools and ordered the demolition of the Special School to enable New Century build its extension on that piece of land, even though there was a vacant plot of land behind New Century which they could have used.

They have also blocked the main access to the compound and forced the hundreds of children in that cluster to use only one exit, the back gate. This gate opens into an open gutter and uneven playground which the children with physical disabilities would find it difficult to access.

The authorities of the Ghana Education Service Sub Metro were unaware of this decision and could therefore not make suitable alternative school accommodation available for the children, who have now been forced to squat in one dilapidated classroomof the JHS 5.

With no toilet facilities, and situated high on a sloping eroding structure with crumbling stair cases, it is totally unsuitable for the children some of whom are physically disabled as well as intellectually challenged.

Though the AMA had promised to provide temporary classrooms for the special needs school before school reopened, nothing has been done and the children have nowhere to sit and learn as the single classroom they have been forced into is largely inaccessible to the physically challenged, poorly lighted and ventilated and is generally not conducive for any form of teaching or learning.

School reopened almost 3 weeks ago and yet many parents have withdrawn them from school and keep them at home while making alternative arrangements at great cost and inconvenience.

These special needs children need all the assistance they can get but the AMA has treated them in a very insulting and inconsiderate manner as if they do not have any rights or do not matter.

Why should the city authorities deprive these weak and vulnerable children of the ability to learn and interact with their peers and teachers in some measure of comfort and dignity?

Why should they be crammed into this little piece of hell just to make way for the able bodied students of New Century to get more classrooms and facilities? Why deprive them of the little they have to give to those who have so much more? Is this the attitude that managers of the much touted Millennium city have towards the weak, vulnerable and under privileged?Do they want to consign them to the dark corners of our lives so we forget they exist?

They are special because they need a bit more attention and care but they hurt, laugh, cry, sing, eat, hug and feel like every one of us and deserve to be treated with dignity. All those responsible for the misery thee children are currently suffering ought to be ashamed of themselves. Why beat up the weak and defenceless?

I hereby call on the Mayor to provide these special children with a decent alternative 3 classroom accommodation within the next 2 weeks to replace the structure which he ordered demolished. Ghana Education Service and all responsible agencies should also be alive to their responsibilities to these children and ensure this deplorable situation ends.

It is high time we took better care of our physically and intellectually challenged brethren instead of compounding their woes. Their lives are hard enough as it is and their parents and careers also need all the help they can get.

Mr. Mayor, Director General of the Ghana Education Service, caretaker Ministers for Women and Children's Affairs and Social Welfare, children with special needs matter and you should work for them as well!

Ursula Owusu, Member of Parliament (MP) Ablekuma West

24/01/13

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