BY EMMANUEL EDUKUGHO
Ima Mariam Nike Agunbiade, who has been running a nursery, primary and secondary school for over 14 years, while launching six books on Special Educational Needs in Children, Montessori Special Educational Needs, The Complete Montessori Education (Theory and Practice), Running A Profitable School, The 6PR Principles of Selling and Marketing, and The 6PS Selling Principles at Helen Doron Centre, Eleganza Gardens, Lekki, said she has gained insight into how children learn, especially combining traditional teaching, international educational practice with Montessori philosophy and method.
“Out of five children in a family, one may be of special needs, not necessarily blind, dumb or deaf, but have learning and behavioural difficulties and even gifted children. Everybody has special needs.”
The books are meant for teachers, parents to know that such books exist and access the information and also for general readership by people.
She noted that many teachers, especially those in public schools don’t have funds to attend relevant trainings, while also parents are too occupied, hence the need to come to their assistance by publishing these books.
Nike Agunbiade explained there is a growing interest in Special Educational Needs among teachers and practitioners especially because of the policy of inclusion which has become a universal practice in schools in the 21st century.
The Montessori Special Needs method of teaching allows children to get to the highest level of their potentials. There are children who can not process knowledge, hindered by mental disability, but there is need for such children to be independent, their situations and conditions rectified.
“Schools don’t want to take children of special needs. These children have rights which should be protected, have equal opportunities with others to succeed. So to teach children with special needs, you must be patient, with a lot of reinforcement, don’t impose your own ideas on them, each child has its own potential, different from one another.”
Parents should also know how to face the challenge of special needs, to avoid pregnancy of special needs children.
She said Montessori teachers are insufficient, and are required more than the regular, traditional teachers.
“Not many are produced even in universities because they have stigma and don’t been seen as special needs teachers.
We all have special needs even at old age. Anyone who cannot do something to help himself have special needs.”
According to her, the Montessori Educational Philosophy is a child-centred philosophy which believes in the individuality of the child and the possibility of every child to reach his/her highest potential in the Montessori prepared environment, using the didactic materials guided by a Montessori teacher.
To solve the shortage of Montessori teachers in the school system, the Helen Doron Centre is running Montessori Diploma programme with international accreditation. Also there is a Diploma of Special Needs Teachers programme.
Nike referred to Autism which is a condition of failure to develop social and communication skills to the usual level found in some children, but more common in boys than in girls which could be mild or serious. “Some kids are chained to restraint them not to injure others. Parents abandon kids with severe autism.”
She advised parents not to deny children with special needs, saying that the shaping method can be used to shape and transform them to acceptable standards.
“Bill Gates had some kind of special needs, but he gradually overcame this over the years.”
Special needs children could be genius whose gift is not being exploited, but extremely intelligent.
“The objective of it all is how to harness talents of such children and the need to recognize them if he/she is deficient or autism.”
Nike, a lawyer, educationist, creative arts scholar and writer, a Franchisor of an International Educational Franchise, paid tribute to Helen Doron, an international education organization specialized in English and Mathematics, tackling problems of children in these subjects, considering the high failure rate in WAEC and NECO.
Helen Doron has developed different methodologies to pass examinations in these subjects. “There is need for public schools to key into these methodologies and remediation for these children to sit successfully for these standardized examinations.” she said.