By Fru Rita Ngum
A baseline profile of 31 inclusive education stakeholders conducted in Mezam Division of the Northwest Region (NWR) of Cameroon within the Community of Practice as a Leverage for Sustaining the Gains of Inclusive Education Project has been presented to the education authorities/family in the NWR. The ceremony took place on December 17, 2021 at the Baptist Center Nkwen Bamenda.
Presiding over the event in the presence of representatives of the Regional Delegations of Basic and Secondary Education, Vice chancellor of the University of Bamenda, Delegate of Social Affairs amongst others, the Director of CBC Health Services (DHS), Prof. Tih Pius Muffih expressed gratitude to educational stakeholders for their continuous efforts in serving persons with disabilities in the region and beyond. Prof. Tih noted that the project: Community of Practice as a Leverage for Sustaining the Gains of Inclusive Education has been designed to consolidate the gains of inclusive education stakeholders’ endeavors in the NWR. After the project launching in February 2021, the key starting point of the project had been the baseline assessment of the current state of institutions’ capacities to deliver quality education to children with all types of impairments. He applauded the leadership of the different institutions for their collaboration with the teams of researchers that visited their respective institutions in June 2021. Presenting the highlights of the findings, the Coordinator of the project, Mr. Ndintek Kennedy disclosed that the baseline survey activity started in May 2021 with a 3-day training workshop that trained the researchers for data collection. During the survey, 6 researchers, grouped into three teams of two persons, were deployed to 31 Inclusive Education stakeholder institutions comprising of 16 primary schools, 11 secondary and high schools, and 4 special schools; with each team visiting one school per day over 10 days spanned across four weeks. According to Mr. Ndintek, the survey revealed that there are 593 learners with impairments in the 31 institutions that were surveyed. The findings also showed that while most of the institutions included learners with impairments in pedagogy, school life and provided reasonable accommodation measures, only few of the surveyed institutions had resource rooms, promoted the use of sign language, had trained inclusive education staff and had Parents Teachers Associations (PTAs) that supported inclusive education.
The research identified challenges to collaboration among inclusive education stakeholders such as the lack of coordination of inclusive education stakeholders, limited awareness of available services across facilities, weak understanding of the importance of inclusive education among school authorities leading to varying levels of engagement and support for inclusive education.
The SEEPD Program Manager, Mr. Awa Jacques Chirac drilled the stakeholders on the Terms of Reference (ToR) for the 3-year project which will end in December 2023. He noted that the objective of the ToR which will be a guiding document if adopted by stakeholders is to ensure that inclusive education in the Northwest region is of high quality and sustainable. Based on survey findings which revealed a weak level of collaboration among inclusive education stakeholders, Dr. Mbibeh Louis (one of the lead researchers) coordinated focus group discussions during which meeting participants explored strategies to strengthen collaboration in the delivery of inclusive education.
Participants were grouped into four focus groups made up of Head Teachers of primary schools, Principals of secondary and high schools, Education Authorities, and Administrators/Coordinators of Rehabilitation Centers. Participants underlined networking, advocacy, and sensitization amongst others, as some of the measures to strengthen collaboration and improve inclusive education in the region and beyond.
Recommendations from the meeting focused on reviewing the ToR, developing a national database on inclusive education, and organizing a timeframe for the participation of stakeholders. The Community of Practice as a Leverage for Sustaining the Gains of Inclusive Education project is funded by Liliane Foundation through the Empowerment and Disability Inclusive Development (EDID) program of the CBC Health Services.