A Partner West Africa News Story
Story 21 of 217
Volunteer in schools in Ghana, West Africa

New Work at House of Grace

Date Posted: 03/08/2018

One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability, and disability prevalence is higher for developing countries; at least 1 in 10 of these are children. Read on to see what work Partner West Africa is doing with sepcialist schools for deaf children in Ghana and the UK.

One billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, experience some form of disability, and disability prevalence is higher for developing countries; at least 1 in 10 of these are children.

Although people living with disabilities in Ghana continue to face stigma and discrimination it is becoming part of the mainstream political agenda. In 2012 Ghana ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and, more recently, on the 24th of July 2018 Ghanaian representatives travelled to London to participate in the world’s first global disability summit which aimed to celebrate the achievements and rights of people with disabilities. The summit was built around major commitments to be made around four major themes: dignity and respect for all, inclusive education, economic empowerment and technology & innovation. Ghana’s Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ms Otiko Afisa Djaba said a communication strategy has been developed to ensure proper awareness on disability issues among all groups [in Ghana]. People with disabilities have generally poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. Access to school for children with disabilities is often limited by a lack of understanding about their needs, and a lack of trained teachers, classroom support learning resources and facilities.

One of Partner West Africa’s partner schools is House of Grace, a specialist school for deaf and hearing-impaired children. The school aims to provide inclusive education for deaf children allowing them to participate fully in school and empowering them to participate as members of the community. Hannah Boatang, founder of House of Grace says “to begin with, it [House of Grace] was a pre-school for both hearing and deaf children...however, when the parents of the students without hearing impairments heard that the school was also for deaf students, they weren’t interested. As a result, the school focused solely on the deaf. I visited local communities to find eligible children and saw that quite a few were older, meaning a pre-school wasn’t enough. As a result, the school was expanded [from the next academic year the school will span pre-school through to senior high school level]”. As a result of their disability children often start school older than students at mainstream schools which makes it difficult to teach children in age groups, as is common practice. Frederick Anderson, headteacher at House of Grace explains that “the classes are not organised by age. Instead, classes are organised by how quickly the students can learn and how fast they are in class; everyone should go at the pace they can learn at. Some of the students started late and so are still attending school aged roughly 23”.

House of Grace is part of Partner West Africa's International Schools Partnership Programme which connects schools in Ghana with schools in the UK. Their partner school is also a specialist school for deaf children and projects are completed which aim to promote understanding and cultural exchange which can be used throughout the school, not simply individual pen-pal type communication. The same opportunities exist for mainstream schools in Ghana and the UK and all follow the same format.

The partnership is led by PWA team members in Ghana and the UK and involves international volunteers in the projects in Ghana (and sometimes in the UK when they return home). One of the comments PWA volunteers, who spend time at school, make is how friendly the students are and how eager they are to get involved. “Every time we arrived at the school, the young students would run up to us all and hug us, and even though the children were deaf, and our sign language was limited, they were still always so excited and happy to see us and be around us. This was very heart warming and meant I always looked forward to arriving at the school and spending time with the children.” – Lucy, PWA volunteer

Past partnership projects in Ghana have included personal biographies of staff and students, a ‘timeline’ of the students’ day-to-day routine and writing stories and poems. Most recently volunteers have spent time working with the students to create a sign language tutorial to teach the UK students, their British counterparts use British Sign Language whereas in Ghana, American Sign Language is used.

See a small clip of their work showing Nana signing ‘what is your name…my name is Nana’

Future planned work for this autumn will include the students writing about their favourite foods and making a short recipe book. Read more about the House of Grace school partnership and other projects that we have done there and see our website for information about how you can be part of this great project

Author: Sophie - PWA Manager

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