Development partners, educational sector NGOs, disability groups and the Ghana Education Service showed keen interest in the Government of Ghana’s Inclusive Education Policy and Implementation Plan (2015-2019) when it came out, and made pledges towards ensuring success in its implementation. The overarching goal of the policy was to redefine and recast the delivery and management of educational services to respond to the diverse needs of all learners.
Five years on, while the government, through policy interventions, has provided infrastructure for establishing pre-schools in the majority of existing public basic schools, we still have a long way to go in order to ensure that the country is on track with key milestones set out in the implementation plan. We need to work together to deepen inclusive education at all levels through the provision of the needed school infrastructure, training of teachers/caregivers in special needs education and advocacy/sensitization to ensure that children with special needs are not discriminated against in exercising their right to inclusive, equitable education as per the fourth sustainable development goal.
Inclusive education for street connected mothers and children
To celebrate the next phase of Ghana’s Inclusive Education Policy, I hope to show you how – through partnership and collaboration – the children of street-connected mothers can access inclusive education, using the example of Chance for Childhood’s programme in Accra.
A majority of the street-connected mothers who live and work in the commercial hub of Accra are from the poorer, semi-arid northern part of Ghana, but migrate southwards in search of jobs. Many end up in the central business district, settling for menial and hazardous jobs; mostly scraping a living working as head porters (commonly known as “Kayaye”). This job is highly detrimental to their health, whilst also exposing their children to violence and neglect, as well as a lack of safe housing or quality healthcare. Most children of street-connected mothers under 5 years living in Accra do not have access to inclusive, early education because their mothers could simply not afford it. The vast majority of these mothers routinely strapped their babies to their backs for long hours amidst the sweltering heat, noise and dense crowds as they worked, or they left the children in the care of other young children in unsafe and violent environments.
In Ghana, Chance for Childhood has been working with Street Girls Aid in Accra since 2016 to ensure children of young street-connected mothers have access to quality inclusive early childhood development (ECD) education to prepare them for primary school. We currently support two pre-primary ECD centres located in the centre of the city (to provide proximity to where young mothers live and work).
Every year, approximately 350 children from ages 3 months to 7 years go to the Kinbu and Railways ECD centres managed by Street Girls Aid. The centres do not only offer these otherwise vulnerable children a place to begin their formal education but also provide a critical safe space where their nutrition and psychosocial needs can be met. The benefits are mutually reinforcing because enrolling the children at the ECD centres also has a positive impact on their mothers’ health as well as their capacity to earn an income while guaranteeing the child’s ability to quickly develop motor, language, communication and social skills.
Looking ahead: Our focus for the next three years is on:
- Early detection of children with special needs or disabilities through screening.
- Capacity building of teachers and caregivers, and parents of children with special needs, to effectively provide tailored support to the children.
- Behavioural change of families and communities towards children with disabilities and special needs.
We understand that it requires the concerted effort of all stakeholders – government, development partners, implementing NGOs and the community at large to ensure we make meaningful, sustainable progress towards achieving inclusion in education. We’re always open to new partnerships and collaborations to ensure we’re addressing these issues in the most effective way possible!
Ghana Country Representative