Mr. Richard Opoku, Global Inclusion and Safeguarding Lead at Chance for Childhood, has urged the Ministry of Education to prioritize the implementation of Ghana's Inclusive Education Policy by allocating sufficient funds.
In an interview with GNA, Mr. Opoku stressed the importance of conducting screenings for every child enrolling in primary school, as per the provisions of the policy, to ensure early identification, referrals, and assessments for children with disabilities.
Opoku emphasized that early detection is crucial for providing timely and appropriate interventions, enabling all children to succeed in both school and life.
He highlighted the challenges faced by many children with disabilities who are kept out of school due to fear of stigmatization and lack of family support. Additionally, the lack of capacity in numerous basic schools to support children with disabilities hampers their access to education.
Citing World Health Organization statistics, Opoku pointed out that globally, around 150 million children have disabilities, with 80% residing in developing countries. Unfortunately, less than 10% of these children attend school.
In Ghana, an estimated 130,000 children have disabilities, but Opoku noted that the actual figure might be higher due to underreporting.
Opoku revealed that, on average, only one in six children with disabilities are in school, leaving five without access to education.
He emphasized the importance of early identification through screening and assessment for disabilities and special needs, as children identified early are more likely to receive the necessary support, achieve at grade level, and develop social and emotional skills.
Despite the launch of the Inclusive Education Policy in 2015, Opoku highlighted the need for full implementation.
The policy advocates for enrolling children with mild and moderate disabilities in mainstream schools, while special schools cater to those with severe disabilities, providing expertise services to nearby schools.
The policy also stresses the importance of regular screenings and assessments for early identification and intervention.
Chance for Childhood, an NGO with a child-centered focus, works to promote a safe school environment and the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream education.