Friday, October 17, 2014

Our first week at the Yumba Special School: What we saw and how it made us feel

In this blog, written by Steph Mackinnon and Sylvia Kuuyelleh, we will be discussing our intitial thoughts and feelings from our first visits to the Yumba Special School. Firstly, Steph, a UK volunteer, will discuss how she felt about the school. Sylvia, a Ghanaian volunteer, will then write about how she felt.
Steph and Sylvia: 
Yumba is based on the outskirts of Tamale. This means that we have an early start and a long, cramped drive to the school. Yumba school is built on a very large area of land, it has the potential to be a beautiful school, with a beautiful view.
When we first visited Yumba it was amazing to see how the children were so welcoming and lovely towards us. They were full of smiles and were very sociable but it was heartbreaking to see that the school had very few classroom structures, few teaching and learning materials, poor teacher-pupil ratios and many other needs. Despite this serious lack of funding, the gifts that are within the pupils are clear. We have witnessed vocational classes where pupils have made both colourful doormats and beads for jewellery. With greater resources the teachers and pupils could achieve much more!

Pupils making clay beads

The physical health of the children was the hardest thing for me to see. I found this to be difficult as I have never witnessed this back at home. The services and support available to people in the UK is much greater compared to what is available here in Ghana. Basic needs, such as general first aid and upkeeping general body cleanliness is something which we take for granted. With little money and access to healthcare here it is something which is not as easily achievable. It was also difficult and upsetting for me to hear about the treatment that most of the children endured at home, mostly due to ignorance from the community. I hope that in the near future we can change people's perceptions of children with learning disabilities and that they learn that people with learning disabilities should be loved and cared for. My experiences here so far are empowering me to do as much as i can to help the children. I hope through using my knowledge and experience I can help to make the school provide the best education for children with learning disabilities, as it is something i am very passionate about. I believe all children should have access to a good quality of education no matter what problems you have or your background.
Limited government funding for the school has really touched my heart. Some other schools in ghana are enjoying an aboundance of facilities, which I think every child should enjoy irrespective of their background. The school has very few classroom structures, which makes it very difficult for the teachers to group the children accordingly and appropriately. This has actually made it very difficult for the children to understand what is being taught because the staff are unable to cater for the variety of needs that the pupils have.
Another issue that has affected me and is limiting the schools impact is that some children are not able to go to school because the school lacks funds for fuel for their vehicles to move and pickup children to school. Also because of the limited funding,the school has very few teaching-learning materials, which makes it really difficult for the children to understand some lessons taught in the school and prevents a lot of lessons being taught.
Teacher Incentives, which is an additional allowance on top of salary that teachers recieve in Ghana to help with their teaching, are lacking at the school. Due to there not being an allowance to motivate the teachers to work harder means they are less able to uplift the name of the school. Also, the feeding of the children at school is poor. The quantity and quality of ingredients is not good. Also, the hygiene of the kitchen worried me. Again this is a result of a lack of funding at the school. 
The kitchen at Yumba Special School

Sylvia and Steph: Having the opportunity to visit the school and meeting the staff at Yumba Special School has been difficult in a number of ways that we discussed above. However, this has helped us understand the importance of our role to help improve the situation of the school and people with learning disabilities here in Tamale. This experience of going to Yumba has given us the fuel to set out and start our work this week.
As we have just concluded planning for our time here the next blog from the team will be outlining the work we will undertake up until December.

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