CURRENT EDUCATIONAL STATUES FOR CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES IN CAMEROON

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To address what is known about school attendance, this article summarizes the research studies from Cameroon focused on education for children with disabilities. We looked for studies focusing on numbers of children with disabilities in inclusive schools, and the perspectives or experiences of these students on Inclosive Education. There is a lack of information in estimates of numbers of children with disabilities attending school. One way to estimate school attendance of children with disabilities is to examine prevalence studies for relevant information. The MICS (Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys) study conducted by UNICEF (2008) made reference to school attendance but without detail. Parents were asked about the presence of one or more impairments in their children; however, it is important to note that these were screening questions and the children were not interviewed or assessed for the actual impairment or the experience of disability.

Inclusive education was not specifically addressed in this study. Data obtained from MICS3 indicated that 36.2% of children who screened positive for disability, between the ages of 2 and 4 participated in early education activities (such as reading books, telling stories, singing songs), and respondents tended to report lower levels of learners with identified disabilities among those participating in more early learning activities (UNICEF, 2008). Benuh and Fobuzie estimated that at least 30,000 children with disabilities of school age (age range not specified) live in the North West Region, and that less than 8,000 of these children, or less than 30%, are integrated (their term) into mainstream schools, not necessarily with inclusive programing. They estimated that fewer than 1,000 students, with predominantly hearing, visual, and mental impairments, attended special education schools in the Region (Benuh and Fobuzie, 2009). In contrast, UNICEF (2008) reported that overall 73.4% of Cameroon children who screened positive in the TQ Disability Module – a component of the MICS3 survey, attend school.

Most studies we identified focused on teachers and principals, rather than children or their families. For example, many principals interviewed in the Ngwokabuenui study (2013) had a mixed view to inclusion in schools. Although they believed learners with disabilities could profit with interactions with students without disabilities and with general education teachers, and vice versa, they supported separate education for many students with disabilities. The data indicated a negative correlation between having a child with a disability and the involvement of the parents with the schools. While this data does not infer causality, educators have reiterated the need to have collaborations with the families of children with disabilities (Tchombe, 2014).

The experience of children with disabilities in inclusive or integrated classrooms is not well studied in Cameroon. There is some limited evidence that students with disabilities have difficulty progressing to secondary school, although we found little recent information. For example, Cockburn, Wango, Benuh and Cleaver (2011) found that many people with disabilities reported no or little secondary and tertiary education, with over 70% of disabled adults reporting that they did not go past primary school. In another study of over 70 principals in public secondary and high (A level) schools in the North West Region, Ngwokabuenui (2013) found that most schools (80.8%) had very low percentages (0.0% to 5%) of students with disabilities. This study included a report that four visually impaired students who, although educated in mainstream inclusive classrooms, were not given Ordinary level braille exams (a culminating exam in secondary school) due to poor preparation by the examining body (Cameroon Ministry of Social Affairs 2012 as cited in Ngwokabuenui). Bamu (2016) also reports on the challenges of braille translation for GCE exams, and provides examples of students who feel they were disadvantaged because of possible incorrect translation. Authors noted the lack of treatment and rehabilitation options, intervention resources, assistive devices, and trained teachers (e.g. Arrah, 2013; de Clerk, 2011). Few studies examine how contexts and systems support children with mobility, mental health, or visual impairments in getting to and participating in school. For example, in most parts of Cameroon, wheelchairs are manual and rudimentary. They tend not to be useful as the roads and transportation systems are often inaccessible. Public transportation systems do not provide accommodations for people with disabilities, and few schools have dedicated school buses to transport students to school. The cost of private transportation is beyond the reach of the majority of students and their families. As such, getting to schools can be a significant problem (Nsamenang and Tchombe , 2011). These authors report that in class, students are expected to sit on benches that are not designed to accommodate impairments, and there are few to no assistive technologies for children who are unable to write.

References
International Knowledge Sharing Platform
ACPF (2011). Violence Against Children with Disabilities in Africa: Field Studies from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Senegal, Uganda and Zambia. The African Child Policy Forum: Addis Ababa. ACPF (2013). The African Report on Child Wellbeing 2013: Towards greater accountability to Africa’schildren. Addis Ababa: The African Child Policy Forum (ACPF). Anchimbe, E. A. (2006). Functional seclusion and the future of indigenous languages in Africa: the case of Cameroon. In J. Mugane (Ed.). Selected Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference on African Linguistics (94103). Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

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