By Bonkung Handerson
The milestones made by the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services in Inclusive Education (IE) must be sustained and propagated. This is a huge goal that the organization cannot achieve by itself without the involvement of other stakeholders. This was the organization’s drive to launch a Community of Practice (CoP) project, which can harness and sustain the gains made by the CBCHS in inclusive education.
The highly animated launching of the CoP project took place on February 19, 2021 at the Baptist Center Main Hall in Bamenda in the presence of education stakeholders, learners and parents with disabilities, partner organizations, some Mayors of Council and the media. These included among others the Northwest Regional Delegates of Basic Education, Secondary Education and Social Affairs and the Director of Higher Teaching Training College (HTTC) who doubled as representative of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Bamenda. These key stakeholders joined the over 50 participants at the launching to sign commitments to be part of IE Community of Practice.
In her presentation, Mrs. Agho Glory, Project Manager defined a Community of Practice (CoP) as a group of people who share a common goal and interest of developing and spreading new knowledge to improve understanding and action around an issue. She said, the project will bring together all the key IE stakeholders in the Northwest region to henceforth work on a common platform. These include: regional education authorities, special needs education teachers, mainstream teachers, representative of CBR workers, teachers of training colleges, rehabilitation service providers, representatives of parents, media professionals and project managers. Mrs. Agho stressed on complementarity than competition when development for the common good is concerned.
For her part, Mrs. Fobuzie Margaret, Education Advisor presented an overview of CBC Health Services’ experience and achievements in the education of learners with impairment. She noted the great contribution the CBCHS has made over the years to bring to the fore the importance of inclusive education in Cameroon. According to her, the gains are evident in the reforms in the GCE Board and the University of Bamenda in favour of students with disabilities. Mrs. Fobuzie paid special tributes to the CBC Education Department which, according to her, is the first institution to admit pupils and students with very serious disabilities. She said the key lessons from the CBCHS experience is that inclusion is possible, partnership is key and awareness creation leads to change of attitudes.
Adding his voice to the same, the Director of Health Services, Prof. Tih Pius Muffih said, the project on CoP as a leverage for sustaining the gains of IE has foreseeable benefits of consolidating the gains of inclusive education in the Northwest region. He noted that the project is ‘our continuous efforts to support the Government of Cameroon achieve SDG4 in ensuring inclusive and equitable education for all”.
Prof. Tita Margaret, Director of HTTC and representative of the Vice Chancellor revealed that the University of Bamenda has for the first time recruited a special needs education resource person to take care of the needs of students with disabilities. Prof. Tita lauded that the partnership with the CBCHS and remarked that conditions of learning for students with disabilities at UBa can only get better.
Mrs. Mukom Fuei Comfort, Sub Director of General Affairs at the NW Delegation of Secondary Education declared the Community of Practice project launched.
It should be recalled that the CBC Health Services’ involvement in the work of disabilities is embedded in the organization’s history that began in 1936 in Mbem, Donga/Mantung division. This arm of the CBCHS would become more pronounced in 1952 when the treatment of Leprosy began in Mbingo Baptist Hospital with a Settlement of the patients. In 1972, the work of disability was better organized with the creation of the Physio-Therapy Department then came the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program in 1982.
The Integrated School for the Blind Kumbo began in 1982 followed in 2000 with the creation of the Integrated School for the Deaf in Mbingo. These two schools provided support to some mainstream mission and government schools, which led to an increased enrolment of pupils and students with disabilities.
Since 2012, CBCHS’ services for persons with disabilities changed focus from providing direct assistance to mainstreaming disability into the school system.