By Gabriel Ewepu
In this interview, the Convener, Engraved One’s Prayer Support and Advocacy Initiative, EOPSAI, Biboara Yinkere, speaks on the need to change the narrative concerning the plight of children with special needs, and her passion to establish a school for children with special needs including other issues.
Why did your organization, the Engraved One’s Prayer Support, and Advocacy Initiative choose to commemorate World Down syndrome Day in October?
The month of October worldwide is celebrated as down- syndrome awareness month and October 6 is World Cerebral palsy day to commemorate these two conditions; down syndrome and the cerebral palsy day we decided to have this advocacy and prayer walk. We pray for them because prayer goes a long way to make their situation bearable.
We are a prayer support group and God called us to do this and we believe that God is in the business of transforming the lives of children because medically they are written off.
Medically there is no solution and cure but we know with prayer, medical and prayer interventions we believe that our children will fulfill their destinies. Destinies might not be designed according to the standard of the world but they will live their lives to the fullest and we will be happy having them.
Why are parents ashamed to bring out children with special needs?
In our group, we have over 40 parents. We want parents to be available because they have a responsibility to advocate for their children. So we want the parents involved and speak for their children. Some of the children don’t appear on family albums and nor are they placed on social media as they do to other children in the family. Please do not be ashamed of your children. There is nothing wrong with having a child with a special condition, that child is human, before God the child is complete and everybody is complete and these children have a place in Heaven or Hell.
Some parents go to church and mosque leaving their children locked up at home and that is wrong. They pay school fees for other children in the family except for the child with a special need, rather give excuses. The parents are the first people who discriminate against their children. Don’t hide your child from your family, friends, and colleagues bring the child out and do not discriminate that child because he or she needs education because a human being without education is blind.
What inspired you to establish a special school for children with special needs?
The high rate of rejection by mainstream schools, even where they accept our children in the guise of inclusion I discovered most schools do not really understand what inclusive education is all about and the children are more or less ignored in class.
More so, there are the problems of non-availability of Special Needs Schools in the Nyanya, Orozo axis of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. And the very high cost of these schools was available.
How many children currently enrolled in the school?
We currently have eight of them.
Do you have support from government agencies or Development partners?
How do you source for funds to run the school?
We the Parents are the major financiers and we get help from friends and family members and other members of the NGO also make donations.
Have discovered talents among children with special needs and can they be helped in developing them?
They have the ability to learn and thrive in class like any other child. Some have shown strength in Computers and Arts.
How do you mobilize parents to enroll children with disabilities?
They are already longing for such an opportunity so it is not a problem. The major challenge they have is funding and mobility because especially in the case of Cerebral, movement is an issue.
Talking about special care for children with special needs what do you think is really lacking and needed?
Some require assertive aids for hearing, sitting, standing, etc. The cost of therapy may be physiotherapy, speech, occupational therapy is just too high. They need gadgets like computers, musical equipment, trampolines, and others.
What do think Government at all levels and Civil Society Organisations including religious organisations should do to ameliorate the plight of children with special attention?
Provide emotional, academic, medical and financial support. Not to build institutions that shut them out of the society but to include them in every sphere of life in line with the SDG’s tenet ‘ leave no one behind’.
We enjoin the government to assist us. We have a lot of challenges in changing the mindset of people about special needs. People are shy because they think that a child is ogbanje, and other ignorant attitudes. Most of the women are ashamed of themselves because of the condition of their children and financially they are nowhere. Even they cannot afford to pay the fees of their children in the school established for them. They also live in an unhealthy environment and are harmful to these children.
Special needs education is not given the desired attention from the government and even the private schools that run.
What about enforcement of the law concerning them?
It is of utmost necessity that the Government implements existing policy and also come up with more to help the children and their families.