By Vincent Ujumadu – Awka
For many years, the School for Children with Special Needs at Isulo, in Orumba South Local Government Area of Anambra State, suffered neglect and abandonment, until the wife of the governor of the state, Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano, rescued it from desolation and saved the children from what appeared to be a hopeless situation.
Her first visit to the school was indeed an eye-opener for the governor’s wife as she came face to face with the pitiable condition of the institution.
Most of the buildings were dilapidated, while social amenities, including water supply, electricity, access roads, relevant teachers, transportation, among others, were totally lacking.
Through her NGO, CAFE, Mrs Obiano began the transformation of the school. For the time, the pupils started interacting with their colleagues from other schools and started participating in competitions as buses were provided for the school.
Commissioner for Basic Education, Professor Kate Omenugha, while appreciating the efforts of Mrs Obiano towards the transformation of the school said it required someone who has the feeling of the less privileged in mind to do what the governor’s wife is doing in the state.
She said: “The Isulo school wears a new look with a hostel and teacher’s quarters built by the Obiano administration. What we met on ground was unimaginable.“
We met them as people who have been forgotten by society. The school and the entire environment were deplorable. You couldn’t believe that people lived there.
“But we set to work and before long, we turned the school around to a habitable environment befitting humans. It was the wife of the Governor, Dr Ebelechukwu Obiano that led the campaign.“
“She lost sleep over the sad experience of the inmates.
Her Excellency was so troubled that she called me and cried, saying, I have been looking for these children all my life and here they are at my doorstep.
“I am not going to leave them to remain in such a condition. Then driven by passion, she declared, “We must do something. Hon Commissioner, I will not leave you until you do something about these children.“
“That declaration sparked off the turning around of the Isulo school and initiated the amazing transformational intervention of the Obiano administration in schools and facilities for children with special needs across the state.”
“According to Omenugha, “we built hostels, teachers quarters and set up a secondary school there. The government gave them free tuition just as it gave other physically challenged students schooling in Anambra state.
“The governor also increased their monthly subvention from a paltry N50, 000.00 to N500, 000.00 monthly to ensure that the children are well taken care of.””Before then, the children were not taking promotion examinations.
“Those who got to Primary Six kept repeating the class. Many of them were abandoned by their parents but I’m happy to announce that the students at Isulo will be taking their first WAEC this year.
“The population has also grown from about 100 students to 300 because more students have been joining since the transformation of the school”.
She added: “Obiano has brought life back to the children and their teachers. They now participate in marking international events like the World Disability Day and they are taught to believe that there’s ability in their disability.
“During an event to mark the day in recent past, the children participated in debate, beauty contest and other games. It was part of the initiative that made the Governor to engage sign language experts to teach the children to communicate more effectively.”
“We have involved them in all we do, including what we call boot camping which we have done about three times now.
“Before Covid-19 and consequent closure of schools, we had taken opportunity of holiday periods to take them to the youth village at Mgbakwu where we trained them on a lot of things, including bead making, painting, music, photography etc. We help them learn skills.
“We also do exhibitions where we open for people to come and see what they have made and patronize them too. We have over 350 students whom we have given scholarships especially those who have lost their parents”.
“In the words of Mrs Ivy Aronu -Okafor, an aide to Governor Obiano, “They are part of the few remaining innocents of the world.
“Most of them lack the mental capacity to differentiate wrong from right, often and without inhibitions, exhibit the beautiful, rare qualities in human nature – love, compassion, friendship.
“Their simple minds, unburdened by the complexities of their young world, find expression easily in toothy grins and genuine offerings of friendship.“
“Their needs span no less than that of every human, yet they suffer neglect and abandonment even by their biological parents, extended families and society.”