Okala Foundation in Support of Inclusive Education in Cameroon.

Some 70 “deficient children” at Nkolndongo EPPIA in Yaoundé recently received assistance: school textbooks and other equipment such as Braille paper, punches, Cuban rhythms, sound calculators for the visually impaired and other toys for autistic children were donated by Foundation Okala on Wednesday, October 11, 2023, to these children whose “difference” from others consists in their conditions. Such an empowerment will indeed help the concerned families to ensure education for their children, despite their tough daily subsistence.

Nkolndongo inclusive pilot public school, EPPIA, in Yaoundé, the capital city of Cameroon, has 463 students including 77 disabled (with 31 girls): autistic, visually impaired, or blind, cerebral palsy, people with Down syndrome, the physically disabled, the hearing impaired, the dyslexics, the sickle cell patients, the albinos, the internally displaced persons, etc.

This “diversity” could be an ideal framework for these children’s development and mutual acceptance through making the so-called normal children understand that despite their situation, their condition, the impaired children are just human beings like them.

EPPIA is one of a few dozen “inclusive” schools among the thousands primary schools that exist in Cameroon, a country in central Africa. However, when they were established, these schools were not designed to accommodate this category of students. Adapted toilets, desks, access ramps, etc., everything only existed for the “normal” children.

Inclusion: what is it exactly?

Such is the case for EPPIA established in 1990. Alongside the “normal” students were added the “deficient” students. The two types of population coexist in sometimes overcrowded classrooms, and receive the same lessons, each depending on the degree and type of disability: this is the concept of inclusive education.

Inclusivity is part of “a project still in embryonic stage” in Cameroon, noted the headmaster of EPPIA who certainly recognized that Cameroonian Government “has been making lots of efforts by creating partnerships with some NGOs for teacher training. » However, there is still a long way to go to make this inclusion effective, because these impaired children do not always have the skills, they need to follow a “normal” school curriculum.

“We work with good will people in a bid to get support for students with specific needs in our structure,” said Georges Owono Mbarga, the headmaster of EPPIA in Nkolndongo. He explained:

“Their educational supervision requires mobilization of several resources including specific adapted school materials. Furthermore, some students live very far away and are unable to travel to school every day, due to their parents’ lack of resources,” he said.

The teaching materials include, inter alia: teaching materials for the visually impaired such as reams of Braille paper, the awl, which is the equivalent of ballpen, the Braille tablet to allow them to write, Cuban rhythm for the mathematics, ropes for people with Down syndrome and others, the sound ball that autistic children can also use, as well as small balls for fine motor skills, sports and class outfits…

A Highly Applauded Assistance.

These materials were donated on Wednesday, October 11, 2023, by Okala Foundation to the students, to great relief of the EPPIA headmaster:

“By donating these materials to these children, by helping parents and the school in acquiring the necessary training and evaluation tools, your Foundation has indeed contributed to the promotion of the people living with disabilities in our School and beyond, in our society,” he declared.

The parents, having eye witnessed this “unusual great event in this school”, have all said “they cannot thank enough the Okala Foundation for this humanitarian gesture. Some have more financial resources than you, but don’t think about others. Through this assistance, you have saved the school year for our children who, due to their disabilities, are abandoned by most people” declared a mother of children.

Besides the school materials, others were more particularly donated to girls with disabilities, including toilet paper and sanitary napkins with transport fees…

“As a vulnerable and at-risk population, failure to meet this minimum could expose them to certain risks, including sexual assault. However, with this minimum, they can stay at home safely, or travel easily to go to school,” explained a teacher.

Huge needs

Unfortunately, the assistance from the Okala Foundation will not be enough to meet all the needs of these children, as they are huge. Hence this call from the headmaster of EPPIA in Nkolndongo:

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states declares that all human beings are born free and equal. We are reaching out to men of good will, as the Okala Foundation has just done, to help us help the State in accomplishing this noble mission. »

May this call be heard! For the bright future of these children who have not had the same luck as the others…