Visually impaired students at Okuapeman Senior High School in the Eastern Region are struggling to have full complement of learning materials to help them in their academic pursuit.
According to the students, mostly first years, the Free SHS policy has discriminated against them in the supply of educational materials to sighted students sidelining that of students with visual impairment.
The Free Senior High School program being implemented by government comes with supply of free exercise and textbooks to sighted students however visually impaired students are left to their fate to purchase their own learning materials which are very expensive for such marginalized group to afford.
This sad reality of inequality defeats the purpose of inclusive Education captured in the sustainable development goal 4 which also emphasizes on quality and Equity.
Some visually impaired students of Okuapeman Senior High School in the Eastern Region said the only option left for them is to seek support from their various District Assemblies but that is not forthcoming hence left disadvantaged.
“the materials that we use to learn we don’t have it in braille copies neither softcopy for us to study on our own which has become a big challenge for us to make to the academic calendar.And also our materials are very expensive that if you are not coming from a well to do family you can’t purchase. A visually impaired student, Asante Osei Opare lamented to Starr News Eastern Regional Correspondent Kojo Ansah.
He bemoaned further that,” government is supplying our sighted counterparts with textbooks and exercise books but we the visually impaired we are not gaining anything. we have to purchase the materials on our own which i think is not fair”.
He explained further that “We purchase braille sheet which costs about GHC80, one frame which cost about GHC75, stirods which cost GHC10, Perkins brailler it cost about GHC6000, laptop which cost about GHC2,500. Someone with an impairment has to buy all these things or the parents has to buy it is sometimes impossible to get. Most of us are not having it and the best place to support us is our district office. Me, for instance, I have been a victim, since 2015 that I sent my application to Ayensuano district and they are not willing to purchase me with the laptops”.
Another Visually impaired student -Debrah Stephen also lamented “The materials are quite expensive, in fact. Though they have provided us with readers but you see not every day the person has to be with you, so it means if the person is not there to read to your hearing then it means you can’t learn. But if you get the laptop, if you are there alone you can use the software to learn on your own. So they should help us”
This is not the only challenge facing visually impaired students at Okuapeman SHS but also the bumpy deplorable road to the school is another worrying concern.
“The nature of our environment here is not friendly, yesterday, for instance, fell someone and I even thought I have fallen into the gutter only to realize it was just a pothole. So I think they should do something about the environment and the facilities to be disability-friendly”.
Abdul Rauf, Programs Manager of International Child Development Program, said the issue requires stakeholders engagement for an urgent solution.
Laurent Simon, a Global Brand Ambassador for Plan International, who visited the Okuapeman SHS to motivate students in their academic pursuit wants the concerns of the visually impaired students addressed in realization of inclusive education which he says is very critical.
Efforts to get the headmaster of Okuapeman SHS speak to the challenges of the students was not successful.
However, the Chairman of the Education Committee in Parliament Ekow Kaitoo told Starr News the committee is not aware of the predicament of the visually impaired beneficiary students of the Free SHS policy assuring that it will be looked into for solution in line with government’s commitment to the sustainable development goals.