Adedugbe, consummate educationist, calls for govt. financial intervention in the training of special-needs schoolchildren
By Jet Stanley Madu
The dearth of institutions with concern for special-needs education remains a daunting task in solving the challenges facing education in Nigeria. This form of education comes with its challenges. Mrs. Omolara Adedugbe an educationist who has been training regular and special needs children for sixty years, says that, unlike the regular or conventional school, one hurdle that needs to be crossed in operating special needs school is the huge capital involved.
“Reason is that only the services of special educators are required,” she said. “Secondly, to achieve effectiveness in tutoring the hearing-impaired, only about 10 – 12 pupils/students can be contained in a class. Thirdly, the children, especially those with speech and hearing problems, need a lot of gadgets for and professionals in speech therapy. And a lot of them need physiotherapy because some of them have problems with their finger dexterity. Even then, some of them come with a lot of problems. You can then, imagine how much it will cost to get all these things together.”
Add to this, the task of getting special-needs teachers. Adedugbe, Executive Director, M.D. Schools, a private-owned institution that trains regular and special-needs students, expressed her disappointment at the dearth of special-needs teachers training institutions while speaking at a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility)-event, organised by the students and staff of the school, in conjunction with the Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), to clear garbage at the New Oja-Oba market and around the school surroundings. The CSR-event also saw people from the immediate community benefit from free medical check-ups as part of programmes organised to mark the 30th anniversary of the school.
“We have Federal College of Education (Special), Oyo, training special teachers for the hearing-impaired, the visually-impaired, for all areas of special needs and for even the gifted,” she recounted. “Also, the Universities of Ibadan and Jos have special education department under their Faculty of Education.”
Adedugbe revealed that Nigeria’s policy on special-needs education provided for some form of subvention from the three tiers of government but accessing the aid has always been a Herculean task.
Her words: “By the constitution of this country, there’s a special subvention from the federal level, state and local government, for the education of children with special needs,” she said. “But I tell you, never once did we get any subvention. Federal government would always send forms for us to fill every year for our needs. We fill the form and that’s the end of the story. We never get anything.
“We’re saddled with training special-needs children. So, we have to write the Federal Ministry of Education, much more than the state Ministry of education. But all we got were mere promises. They know we exist. That actually prompted their sending forms because if they don’t know we exist, they wouldn’t have been sending forms. I think on two occasions they came visiting, to be sure the special school existed. But, we never got anything.”
She insisted that government has great role to play in educating people with learning challenges. She lamented the lack of interest on the part of government to recognize the need for special schools. According to her, private operators have continued to bear the brunt of training special needs students.
“Government has a duty towards her special needs children and has to assist to cater for these children,” she insisted. “We are passionate about special needs children. So, we’re subsidizing and we expect government to also assist us. If private schools are taking that lead, then, government is supposed to come to their aid, so that together, we can bring up these children for the betterment of the society.”
As part of the programmes, the Head of School, Mrs. Olusala Akaiso, explained that the Inner Wheel Club of Gbagada, District 911 Nigeria partnered the school to organize a symposium and to host the special-needs children. The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Olulolapo Ogunbambi, an internationally acclaimed special educator
The event was, however, not all about special-needs children. During the interschool art/music competition, a member of the school Governing Council, Mr. Olukayode Olufemi, stated that the Omole, Agidingbi and Okoba locations of the school had all its members of staff and students participate in the two-week long event that witnessed, among other things, a road walk, inter-school arts/music competition and Parents Teachers’ Association gala night.
Speaking on the essence of the music and art competition, one of the teachers, Mr. Ayobami Soyoye, said it was designed to help students “visualize and understand current happenings around them and to showcase their different talents.”