GARDEN CITY SPECIAL SCHOOL
: Peter and Deborah, two teachers, meet us as we await them at our car. They bring us to meet the children who live here. There are approximately 150 students with special needs in the school with about 60 as residents and the rest as day students. Peter yearns for more accommodations. There are 500 on the waiting list. The kids are generally started in regular school, but, when the school determines them “special,” (in one case, because of failing the written tests in the regular schools), they are sent home,
some waiting for admission. The school grounds are broad, there is a playground, the children live in rooms with bunk-beds, they wear either red-and-white plaid uniforms or green-and-white plaid uniforms. The girls happily greet us; some are clearly in love with their means of helping the less competent, the non-speakers or the shy ones. There are kids with down syndrome and kids with cerebral palsy. Much hand-holding, some hugging, and we visit many, many of the rooms where they live. The minimum age for admission is 8 years; they have to be able to feed themselves and to be toilet-trained to be admitted. The many teachers employed graduated from the Winneba School
for Special Students training program. We are treated to two beautiful spiritual songs sung by a group of about 10 of the children, conducted with feeling and precision by a young bright boy with Down syndrome who proudly accepts our compliments.
February 20 Wednesday:
SUCCESS AT EFFIDUASE: We visit a “unit school” at Wesley Cathedral Methodist School in Effiduase. The Unit School system refers to there being a single (unit) classroom for “special students” on a school for general education of typically developing students. The concept of unit schools is the brainchild of Dr. Adrian Kniel a German who has spent the past six years in Ghana developing these unit schools and training the teachers at the university in Winneba.
Cate and the team are terrifically impressed with Belinda the teacher, the organization of the school, the suitability of the children’s needs. Cate sees that they can work there using language enrichment as a byproduct. Ewura-Abena and the unit school teachers join with the children to sing in Fanti and Twi children's songs.
KOMFO ANOKYE HOSPITAL
(“G”), THE CLEFT PALATE CLINIC: Later the team visits the room where assessments and apparently the cleft-palate operations themselves are performed. We remain there while 12 patients are seen with cranio-facial abnormalities; all but one has some kind of cleft of the lip and/or palate. The photo below is of just some of the hosptial's cleft palate team. The TC visitors donate a See-Scape and SKYPE-ready camera to the clinic. It is hoped that the camera can be used for telepractice therapy from the TC speech
and hearing clinic in New York with some of the cleft palate patients in Kumasi. Cate demonstrates the values of the See-Scape that she brought on 11 year-old Grace. Grace had a successful operation closing her lip and palate, but she still has V.P.I. for all high-pressure sounds and comes for a follow-up evaluation. Most babies/children lay on their mothers' stomachs on the reclining dentist’s chair, and all were dressed immaculately in crinolines and the like, as if for their christenings. Dr. Peter Donkor, maxillo-facial surgeon, acknowledges that we really don’t have any idea what causes cleft palates, that when people from the regions come with their superstitions that they may be caused by witchcraft, he doesn’t attempt to disabuse them of the notion. It may very well come to be that witchcraft is someday proven to be causal, and then “we’ll have a department of Witchcraft Studies.”
TAKORADI, WINNEBA, and CAPE COAST
Thursday February 21:
THE SLAVE FORT: We drive along the seacoast to St. George’s
Fort in Elmina. We hear an exquisite, moving discourse about the building, maintenance, and shifting of possession (from Portuguese to Dutch to English) of this infamous slave holding-place. The guide outdoes himself, and the moment of silence as we pray in the dungeon from which slaves were loaded into the slave-ships for their journey across the Atlantic Passage, is deeply moving. It is a powerful, moving visit.
Friday February 22:
THE UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION
AT WINNEBA, WINNEBA CAMPUS: The Winneba site is a prestigious education-directed school. It includes a unit school for special students as well as the Winneba School
for Special Students Training Program.
The UNIT SCHOOL
is amazing. When we arrive, the children are creating a wild symphony of sound with drums,
bells, singing and dancing. We meet Florence Amenuvor. Her fellow teachers are all enthusiastic and exuberant. Mr. Alexander Oppong meets with us. Mr. Alexander Oppong has an MSC (Masters in Science) from University
in Bloomsburg and is in charge of Education of the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing. Mr. Oppong is hearing and speaks Asante
(Twi) as well as sign language. Mr. Oppong gives us a brief history of Deaf Education in Ghana
. The visit has been brimful with information and a great sense of confidence in the unit schools and the vision which birthed them (courtesy of Dr. Kneil). We are given a number of texts and assessment-texts, and a book by Professor Grace Gadagbui. We learn that Dr. Kniel’s work to keep the unit school’s special education teachers apprised of current trends is a too-rare, valuable phenomenon.
AND THE FETISH-PRIEST We then visit the Castle at Cape Coast
. Equally horrific; equally astonishing and moving that our civilization, like so many, is based upon such calculated exploitation and brutality. In one of the deep dungeons for the male slaves, at an altar upon which are set the two stones sits a fetish-priest, a priest of the pre-European culture. These two stones are the embodiment of the pre-European deity of the place, and the priest offers a libation and a blessing that all of us in his presence have every success and a safe return. The ocean roars all around this castle, and, as with the last castle, there is a church (in this case an Anglican one) which rests right above one of the most mournful dungeons.
Saturday February 23:
We go early to Kakum National Forest
, about an hour north of Cape Coast
, and traverse the hanging canopy over the rain forest. Thereafter, we stop at a Liberian Refugee Camp, and Cate questions some of the gentlemen who come up to talk to us. The men say there are at least 45,000 refugees, and that, though repatriation is being presently encouraged by the Ghanaian government, many consider it unsafe to return to Liberia
(“Our lives are at risk; our homes are down.”), and the funds offered to those who would move back are meager.
Sunday February 24:
Today is spent in Accra
revisiting Mrs. Salome Francois, Brian and Clare Shukan, and getting ready for the trip home. We have lunch with the wife of one of the three men running for president of Ghana
in the December 2008 election and learn a great deal about the complexity of issues and some solutions for Ghana
Monday February 25:
Possible Plans for 2009
(Based on Feburary 2008 trip)
1. We will bring the students to the Ashanti
region from around December 29, 2008 returning around January 16, 2009. We will not have placements or class on the weekends. Class will meet three times a week including one class for placement-specific discussions.
2. We will all stay at the School of Education Guesthouse
on the KUNST campus. Cost will be
approximately $25 per student for a double room with breakfast included. The guest house is clean, with good air conditioning, cable TV, wireless internet and 3 available computers. An additional cost will be the taxis that will take the students and supervisors to their placement sites. It is likely that the taxi rides will cost each student about $5 per day. The only long distance is a 4 hour drive from Accra
which we can probably do in a bus to keep down the costs.
3. The clinical component will take place at three sites: the special school, the unit school, and the hospital in the cleft palate clinic. Before we leave students will know their placements so they can prepare materials beforehand.
4. In the evenings we will have a seminar based upon the educational and health systems in Ghana
, and cultural and linguistic issues relevant to our work in Ghana
. Other evenings students will meet with their clinical supervisors.
5. Students who wish to come will have to prepare AAC and classroom materials beforehand and learn the children’s songs that we will post on the website.
6. Students will be required to have emergency evacuation medical insurance and submit copies of documents that certify this before the trip. In addition, visitors are required to have an up to date yellow fever vaccine to apply for and be issued a visa to enter Ghana
. Students must contact their doctor about other recommended medications such as malaria pills.
7. We will also encourage students to learn some Twi (the tribal language of the Ashanti
region) before they leave.
8. The people of Ghana
dress up much more than we Americans. Women are expected to dress femininely and demurely. Bare arms are acceptable as the temperatures are regularly between 90 and 100 degrees. It is humid and dusty. Men should have one pair of dress pants and some nice cotton shirts. In the school placements, we can dress down somewhat, but jeans are not acceptable.
9. Our main goal is for sustainability. We will think about what we can bring and do that can be continued and expanded once we leave.