Civil society groups including Ford Foundation West African Regional Office and Journalists for Democratic Rights (JODER) have established a centre for children with disabilities in Lagos State, Southwest Nigeria.
The centre located in the Surulere area of the state will provide capacity building including training, learning aids and vocational education for children with disabilities in order to develop and harness their potential.
No fewer than 50 pupils will be enlisted in the school for an initial 12 months programme.
This was made known in the statement signed by JODER official, Akinwale Kasali, who said the centre is for children who suffer from many forms of exclusion and are affected by the impacts in varying degrees, depending on the type of disability.
Kasali stated that as presidential aspirants campaign across the country, and the mainstream media set agenda for national development, the faint voices that lend to issues of disability are a strong indication of how political and economic powers pay little attention to a major national issue of human exclusion.
JODER said, “In many countries such as Nigeria, responses to the situation of children with disabilities are largely abandoned or neglected with the society rooted in negative or paternalistic assumptions of incapacity, dependency and difference that are perpetuated by ignorance.
“The situation diminishes their potential and limits their contributions to society while undermining their individual prosperity.
“In Nigeria, some 18.5% children are out of school according to UNICEF, adding that mostly affected are children with disabilities.”
The media group further noted that the World Bank projects that persons with disabilities constitute about 15% of populations in developing countries and that between 80% to 90% of them don’t gain access to basic needs of life, especially basic education.
JODER said that the primary underlying causes of this situation are the exclusive and inaccessible nature, structure and system of virtually all primary and secondary schools in Nigeria; the confinement of the education of children with disabilities to very few, poorly staffed, poorly equipped and outdated special schools.
“The problem is compounded by very low public awareness on issues of inclusive education; inadequate institutional and human capacities required to implement inclusive education; and inadequate, poor implementation or non-availability of appropriate legal and policy frameworks required for the implementation of inclusive education for children with disabilities. As such, most educational plans most likely do not adequately address the needs of those with disabilities, pushing them further to the margins of society.”
According to the statement, the Ford Foundation and JODER working with Independent Diamond Life for PLWDs, Dream Land Foundation and other civil society groups seek to raise awareness on the challenges of the vulnerable population in Lagos state as well as support a community centre for children with severe/multiple disabilities who are excluded from accessing assisted educational opportunities.
“The focus is on those with sensory disabilities such as visual, hearing impairment and speech challenges. The centre adopts a social and human rights-based approach to disability which recognizes disability as caused by unaccommodating social environments, institutions and attitudes,” the statement noted.
According to the civic groups, one of the major challenges is the lack of effective media coverage on the plight of the physically challenged, societal neglect, exclusion from the social and economic framework, lack of capacity building, discrimination and lack of access to opportunities or outright denial where and when such opportunities arise.
The JODER official, Kasali in a statement said the centre’s services are adopted from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) inclusive social model.
“It is a community service centre that provides disability-specific learning support for abandoned children with disabilities.
“The centre provides housing support, learning and vocational training for children and young people between the ages of 5-20 years. Some of the programs at the centre are Orientation & Mobility for the Blind, Daily living skills, Braille (reading and writing), Sign Language and continuous guidance and counseling.”
JODER noted that Nigeria is a signatory to many international and regional treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC).
According to Kasali, the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as amended also states that a citizen of Nigeria irrespective of ethnic group or disability must not be deprived by reason of the circumstances of his birth.
“This is in consonant with section 1 of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018 and section 1 of the Lagos State Special People’s Law 2010 which prohibits all forms of discrimination and other harmful practices against persons with disabilities.
“The programme also has a media training component to raise public attention on issues of disability for the good health and prosperity of the country.”