The Federal Capital Territory School for the Handicapped, Kuje-Abuja was established in 1999 by the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), to be a centre of intervention for children with special needs. DAVID ADUGE-ANI and CECILIA OGEZI examine the poor state of facilities in the school.
Established in 1999 by a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Jeremiah Useni, the Abuja School for the Handicapped, Kuje, was conceived at that time, to be a centre of intervention for children with special needs. The school, which was equipped with a vocational training centre, to meet the needs of those with varying challenges, was funded through the, then Family Support Programme, before it was taken over in 2006 by the Universal Basic Education Board (UBEB).
However, a recent visit to the school by our reporter revealed many challenges facing the institution. Worried by the poor state of the school, the school assistant head of administration, Malam Yahaya Mohammed, recently had urged the FCT Education Secretariat to do more in supporting the welfare of the students, noting that the situation of the school needed additional support from the government and individuals.
Mohammed revealed that the condition of the handicapped children was a special case and that no amount of money would be enough to take care of them. According to him, “the condition of these children is so serious that no money will be too much for their up keep, so we need more support from both government and spirited individuals.”
He stated that most of the children had no wheelchairs and beds, adding that the available facilities had been overstretched. “They need male hostels, kitchen, water and wall fence. The school is only meant for handicapped children, comprising males and females with the total number of 207 children.”
LEADERSHIP also gathered that the school is also battling with the challenges of lack of teaching aids, adequate teachers and other facilities required providing education to handicapped students. For instance, the students’ dormitories especially, that of the male students’ have no good beds and toilets. Some of the students sleep on bad foams placed on bare floor, while feeding has become a major problem for the school. In some of the classrooms, the ceilings have fallen off and the roofs are visible. Currently, there are 64 staff are employed to support 207 participants with special needs in a boarding facility, comprising 24 specially trained teachers, 24 non-teaching staff and the 13-staff recruited by the Parents Teachers Association (PTA).
A special educator and past vice chairman of Nigeria Association Of Special Needs Teachers (NASET) FCT chapter, Mrs. Daramola Martina Onyeka, had noted that the challenges in the education of children with special needs is the lack of political will by government to enforce laws and provide all that is needed to create enabling environment for these children to learn. Onyeka disclosed that there were few schools that have acknowledged children with special needs in accordance with the national policy on special needs education as it is the modern trend all over the world for schools to adjust to the need of a child with special needs.
“There is no much awareness for rights of children with special needs. There is need for more awareness for compliance, parents of children in this category will move their children without protest because they do not know a school should provide for the needs of a special child,” she said.
The educator who is specialized in hearing impaired advised that children in this category should be tested before being admitted into any school to know the level of their hearing status and other areas as well. “A child that is hearing impaired should be tested to know if such a child has residual hearing. The child would only need hearing aid to improve his/her learning capabilities. For the visually impaired, some have partial sightedness in this case the school can arrange the sitting position such that the child is put at the front roll and the child will not need a brail machine.”
A resource person working with the Universal Basic Education for the Deaf in Kuje, Kunle Iroko explained that as a special need teacher who specialises on learning disabilities he faces numerous challenges. “There are ready made instructional materials that are not available, like the flash cards, charts, computers which many resources rooms don’t have. We got two desktop computers in our school last session, but we need magnetic boards. We need children computers made for only reading, spelling and speaking. Power supply is also a problem.”
Iroko also noted that another challenge is that there are no professionals as required for the job, adding that there were suppose to be three to four resource persons in the school as the work is tedious, adding that there is also suppose to be time to time training, where teachers exchange programmes, scholarship for masters for teachers in this field which he said is completely lacking.
On recently, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) said it has concluded arrangements to introduce inclusive education policy in six selected primary and secondary schools, in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Briefing newsmen in Abuja, the deputy director, special needs education in the Education Secretariat, Mrs. Jean Onyekwelu explained that under the arrangement, students with various disabilities, who are presently studying in various handicapped and disabled schools in FCT, would be readmitted into regular schools along with other students, adding that the administration would no longer confine any student to any handicapped or disabled school, in the territory, except those with multiple disabilities.
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