1. SPECIAL EDUCATION AND REHABILITATION PROFILE
The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labor (Social Welfare, Community Development and Cooperatives), and the Ministry of Education and Culture have primary responsibility for servicing and educating disabled persons in Ghana. The Ministry of Labor maintains overall responsibility for the vocational rehabilitation of disabled persons while working with other ministries, Ghana's Employers Association and the Trade Union Congress.
Ghana's Deputy Director for Rehabilitation, J. B. Amoako, has a great deal of interest and involvement in the delivery of services to disabled persons. He has issued a number of position papers on the responsibility of the government to support such programs and the need to integrate disabled persons into community life.
Ghana receives additional support for special education and rehabilitation services from international sources. The World Rehabilitation Fund has assisted Ghana by providing faculty from Rutgers University to assist in special education workshops and seminars on special education and rehabilitation counseling.
Special education/rehabilitation facilities are growing rapidly in Ghana with a focus on vocational training and vocational rehabilitation. Early in the 1960s, the government of Ghana began a comprehensive vocational rehabilitation effort which might well serve as a model for other African nations. The program provides services to over 500 disabled adults per year and is staffed with counselors, vocational instructors and supervisory personnel. Services include physical treatment, mobility skill development, and prothesis design. The programs have succeeded in reaching into rural villages and communities.
The Industrial Rehabilitation Center in Accra offers training in skills such as rug- and bagmaking, copy-typing, carpentry, metal work and other trades. The Vocational Training Rehabilitation Center (Biriwa, Cape Coast) offers skill training in construction, metal work and wood carving, with emphasis on rural and self-employment. Rural rehabilitation training centers are located throughout Ghana offering training in home crafts production (dress-making, kinte cloth weaving and dyeing, farming, poultry production, shoe-making and tailoring).
Many other facilities are located in the capital city of Accra for mentally retarded children, blind children and deaf children. There is also a teacher training center and YMCA trade training center.
The Society of Friends of Mentally Retarded Children, founded in 1965, operates through two branches in Accra and Kumasi. The Society maintains a counseling service, physicians and social workers. In 1969, the Society opened a day nursery at the Accra Community Center - the first educational program for the retarded in the country. The
Society of Friends also constructed a residential home for mentally retarded children which provides recreational activities.
II. PEACE CORPS ROLE IN SPECIAL EDUCATION AND REHABILITATION
Between 1977-1979, four Peace Corps Volunteers held special education assignments in Accra, working both at the New Horizon School for the Mentally Retarded and at the Home and School for Mentally Retarded Children.
• Two volunteers (a speech therapist and a special education teacher) worked at the Home and School for Mentally Retarded Children, a government-sponsored organization operating through the Society of Friends of the Mentally Retarded. The Home provides educational opportunities for 100 children (approximately 60 boys and 40 girls), representing all levels of retardation and mental illness. The volunteers found that the staff of approximately 20 teachers did not have any special training to work with exceptional children. Although the volunteers gave in-service training, the training component was limited without counterpart involvement.
As a secondary activity, the volunteers initiated a Special Olympics program in Accra. Responsibilities involved training teachers as coaches and providing instruction in physical education. The students competed among themselves and with the New Horizon School and were taken to the stadium to participate in national games. Teachers, families and community members were surprised, excited and impressed by the capabilities demonstrated by the retarded children through the Special Olympics activities. Students gained a new sense of accomplishment and the community discovered a new pride. The volunteers believe that the Special Olympics program was a great success.
• The other two volunteers were assigned to work at the New Horizon School. The School is a parent-run, private agency opened ten years ago.
Shortly after they began their service, however, difficulties arose with the school administration whose expectations of the volunteers resulted in misunderstandings. For example, the volunteers were assigned to work with older children and it appeared to the supervisor that the younger children were learning more and improving at a faster rate. The supervisor construed the situation to be a failure on the part of the volunteers. One volunteer encountered problems with her immediate supervisor as well as parents who believed her to be too young and inexperienced to handle the job. At the end of the school year both volunteers, as well as the Ghanaian principal, were dismissed.
At this point one volunteer transferred to Kenya while the other, a speech therapist, remained in Ghana to work at the Assessment and Resource Center. The volunteer who remained introduced testing instruments and provided outreach assessment services. She also designed a program for speech assessment which continues to be used as a diagnostic tool at the Center.
Working in Ghana, volunteers found that some host country nationals were unfamiliar with the causes of disability, commonly attributing its existence to supernatural occurrences. Often parents would bring their children to the Resource and Assessment Center to request that the effects of a curse be reversed.
Some of the beliefs prevalent about disability include: contact with handicapped children can cause a woman to bear a handicapped child; if a pregnant woman eats seafood (especially crab or lobster), she will bear a handicapped child; and, when the spirit of a dead person invades the living, loss of speech or sight may occur. Such beliefs are common throughout the world and present a formidable barrier to changing attitudes and behavior.
III. SUMMARY COMMENTS
The work of Peace Corps Volunteers in Ghana in rehabilitation and special education appears to be moderately successful. Although many difficulties were experienced by previous volunteers, it is apparent that Ghana has made extraordinary efforts to provide for the needs of disabled persons.
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