Globally, there is heightened concern around widening access for persons with disabilities in higher education. This did not occur in a vacuum but was pushed by the tenets stipulated in international conventions such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948, the Salamanca Statement of 1994, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities adopted in 2006, and the Sustainable Development Goal 4.
These key conventions have led to a drastic shift in global responses towards disability including making higher education more accessible for persons with disabilities. Ghana, a signatory to all these conventions, has domesticated these tenets in its 1992 Constitution, the Persons with Disability Act 715 of 2006, and in its Education Strategic Plan 2018-2030.
These legal frameworks and education policy require all schools, including colleges of education within Ghana to have inclusive environments for children with ‘non-severe’ disabilities.
What is inclusive education?
Inclusive education is defined by UNESCO as a process of addressing and responding to the diverse needs of all learners by increasing participation in learning and reducing exclusion within and from education. It focuses on removal of barriers by making adaptations, accommodations and modifications to the learning environment, curriculum, instruction, assessment and teaching-learning materials in educational institutions to meet the needs of each individual learner.
The implementation of inclusive education is vital because it is well known that children who learn together also learn to live together. This recognition and Ghana’s legal frameworks and education policies might have motivated the Komenda College of Education to adhere to the principles of inclusiveness in its academic activities.
Komenda College of Education was established by the Methodist Church of Ghana in 1948. It is currently a publicly owned higher education institution financed by the government of Ghana. Komenda College of Education is affiliated to the University of Education, Winneba and offers both a diploma in basic education and a bachelor degree in education.
The core mandate of the college is to train teachers for Ghana’s ‘basic schools’. The vision of the Komenda College of Education is to set the pace for academic excellence in teacher education in the country. In the 2019 academic year, 440 students comprising 243 males and 197 females were admitted to pursue a bachelor of education under the mentorship of the University of Education, Winneba.
In order to ensure inclusiveness, the management of Komenda College of Education headed by Reverend Dr Kwesi Nkum Wilson, recruited five physically challenged students in the 2019 academic year. Though not an enormous number, it shows efforts being made by the college to widen access to all, including students with disabilities, which is in line with the abovementioned international conventions and laws to which Ghana has assented.
In addition to this, sign language has been incorporated into the curriculum of the four-year bachelor of education programme offered at the college. Lastly, the college has appointed a special and inclusive education coordinator to be in charge of issues related to inclusive education.
The management of Komenda College of Education is determined in its quest to implement inclusive education as manifested by the initiatives enumerated above. However, this drive is hampered by a number of factors. For example, the college campus is not designed for universal access which makes it challenging for the institution to facilitate access for all disadvantaged groups including students with hearing and visual impairments.
The institution also lacks funding to support inclusive education initiatives. Lastly, the non-availability of a disability support centre in the college makes it difficult for students with special needs to receive the necessary support.
Moving forward, the college may need to develop an inclusive education policy to guide and promote inclusiveness in every aspect of its academic activities. Komenda College of Education may also need to set up a disability support centre immediately, to facilitate access for other disability groups.
The current financial position of Komenda College of Education clearly suggests that it might need support from other external sources, particularly inclusive education support from non-governmental organisations, in order to promote inclusive education in the college more fully.
Sandra Tsoenemawu Sikanku is a tutor and special education coordinator at Komenda College of Education, Ghana. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.