Monday, October 6, 2014

Amaraba! Welcome! – Yumba School Project for children with learning disabilities

'Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.' 

Albert Einstein.

Hello and welcome to the Yumba School Project based in the city of Tamale, Northern Ghana. As you guessed, from this being the first post, this is a new International Service project. This a 'welcome' blog from Frankie Hine-Hughes, the current Team Leader for this project. In the blog I will discuss: the project; why it is needed; and the project partners.

Yumba – 'Love Them'

Yumba school educates children with learning disabilities – often referred to as 'mental disabilities' or 'mental retardation' here in Ghana. The school is possibly the only educational service for children with a learning disability in the Tamale community. The word 'Yumba' is Dagbani, the local language in Tamale, for Love Them.

Yumba School pupils in a vocational class.

Why are so few educational services for people with learning disabilities available here?

In Ghana, most people with disabilities face stigma and discrimination. They are often regarded as a financial burden, unproductive, and cursed. This ingrained viewpoint in Ghanaian society means those with a disability often find themselves in a poverty trap – begging is often the only option. Individuals with a learning disability face far more severe discrimination. Since I have been here many Ghanaians have told me how children with a learning disability are regularly locked away at home, and completely written-off by their family. I have also been told by Ghanaians, who have worked with pupils with a learning disability, that their friends worry that by touching their pupils that they will be cursed and pass on a learning disability to any future offspring.

This culture, for me, makes the very existence of the Yumba School a fantastic achievement. The school, though, finds itself without sufficient resources to meet even basic needs. International Service, working with the Resource Centre of People with Disabilities, has set up a project to improve the services at the school and to fight against the stigma people with a learning disability face.

The project partners:

International Service is an international development charity whose mission is 'to empower and strengthen individuals, organisations and communities, build capacity, promote inclusion and maximise potential '. Through the International Citizen Service, an 18-25 youth volunteering scheme, funded by UK Department for International Development (DFID), IS will provide the opportunity for young volunteers from the UK and Ghana to work on the project.

International Service office

The Resource Centre of People with Disabilities, is based in Tamale. It acts as a coordinating body for all disability focused resource centres in the Northern region of Ghana. The centre will be helping the team by providing its skills and specialist experience. The Resource Centre has operated in partnership with International Service since January 2013 to run the Disability Database Project – click here to find out about their work.

That is all for this initial salvo! The next blog at the end of September will welcome the first team to work on this project.


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