A mere countenance with a child with any form of disability is an obvious expression of sorrow, pain and sadness to the family from which he is begotten.
The expenses, attention and time incurred in taking care of these children with rare conditions is nothing less than a huge burden to families and guardians.
In Nigeria, the condition of the physically challenged children attracts little or no attention. And because of this, they are often disregarded. Their rights are often violated and they are usually excluded and relegated in planning and national development.
Children with physical disabilities need care, love, protection and special infrastructure to survive in a challenging environment. Unfortunately, in Nigeria they are unprotected and exposed to abuse, discrimination, ignored, stigmatized and exploited by families and the society in which they belong . In most cases, family members see disabled children as shameful creatures that are destined for doom. Consequently, most of them roam the streets un necessarily or are used to beg for alms.
These discouraging and pitiful situation leaves bitter thoughts in the minds of families who find themselves with children with such rare conditions. Often, the big question that rolls through their mind is, what does the future hold for them?
It is with the intent to save these children that Schools for Children with Special Needs exist in our society today. These specialized educational institutions are known to cater for, teach and nurture these children until they can add value to the society. We'll take a look at one of these institutions in Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, Nigeria.
With over 40 years in existence, The School for Children with Special Needs has existed in Ijebu Ode to cater for children with auditory and intellectual impairments. Kicking of with just 21 enrolments in 1977, the school currently has over 200 pupils and has successfully impacted into the lives of many of them.
"This noble action was a landmark opportunity to rehabilitate and educate the disadvantaged and deprived children in the Ijebu axis of Ogun state. When we started this school, the Parents of these special needs children who hitherto were hopeless trooped in numbers from within and outside Ijebu Ode. Today I am glad most of these children have a better future now", the school's Head Teacher, Mrs Moyero-Olusegun told our correspondents during an official visit.
Mrs Moyero, who has worked in the school for about 34 years revealed that the existence of the school has paved way for a better future for children who enrolled in the school unlike their colleagues who are usually abandoned by their parents or left to beg for alms before they can eat.
"We have contributed so much to the society since we established this school. Infact, one of our current staff, Micheal Shittu also attended this school. We were able to nurture him well and when he graduated here, he attended Adeola School Special Unit. From there, he left for his NCE at a special unit in Oyo state. Today, he is working with us here to impact into the lives of others. This is just an example of many.” Moyero said.
"Wale Yusuf is also a popular artist in Ijebu-Ode town today. Who knows he could end up being something in life? I only sat down and he drew a portrait of me right on the spot. I am proud that he is of great advantage to his community today.
"Many of these children are good. They have talents embedded in them. It only requires special needs to unravel these attributes in them"
"Those we cannot graduate are usually sent to learn handiworks like Brick laying, Shoe making, hair dressing and they have been performing well. These children can have a brighter future, if only our parents and the government can do more.” She added.
Just like a regular school, children with special needs are also engaged in academic subjects like English, Mathematics, History, Social studies amongst others. However, sporting and extra-curricular activities take more prominenence in the school's daily academic schedule.
"Sports is the best subject of these children. When you ask them to come out for sports, the children gets over excited. The only problem is that we don't have enough sport equipment. We would love to see our children partake in the Special Olympics game for disabled ones", Moyero revealed. In addition, She said that the school has teachers for vocational subjects like making cane chair, hair making and others.
To meet the challenges of giving care and hope to the physically challenged children has been the major duty of the School for Children with Special Needs in Ijebu Ode. However, this task doesn't just come on a platter of gold, says Mrs S.O Hassan, a class teacher in the school.
"These children are just at home doing nothing. Their parents are not helping them in any way. Here, we are only trying our best for them. We don't have choice. If they were to be my children, what would I do? I just have to help in saving their future. I have no choice", Mrs Hassan, who has worked in the school for over 10 years added.
According to her, the conditions of the children sometimes drives pity and sadness but the hope that these children can still achieve something in life is a force that has always keep us moving. She further revealed that her mutual relationship with the pupils is what has made the job easy for her.
Irrespective of challenges faced by children with special needs, observers insist that the public ought to ensure that every person with disability has an enjoyable and empowering experience by accommodating them in all situations. Justice can only be achieved when everyone in the society, irrespective of status, is given the opportunity to fulfil his God given vision. Hence, children with special needs should be given the opportunity to explore their potentials and achieve their God given mandate on earth. However, this cannot be a reality unless proper machineries and facilities are in place to aid their development and proper upbringing. Improving the condition of the physically challenged, especially children, in our society requires that all major stakeholders such as governments, individuals, corporate bodies, civil society organisations, NGOs and the media make concerted effort to drum up support for the enforcement of their rights.
With the motto, "ability in disability", the School for Children with Special Needs in Ijebu Ode believes that physical and intellectual impaired children can be given a better life if the proper facilities are in place.
"Our major challenge is that we need more hands that will help us bring more vocational skill equipment for these children. Even in the area of sports, we need sporting equipment. We also need books, sign language books, radio for the intellectually challenged ones, teaching materials and other financial donations", Mrs. Moyero painstakingly revealed to our reporters.
She believes these facilities can help savage the situation and as well help them to live equal and protected life just like other members of the society as entrenched in the Nigeria constitution and various international conventions which the country is a signatory to.