REPORT OF A ONE DAY SENSITISATION WORKSHOP FOR TEACHERS AND EDUCATORS IN ENUGU STATE ON INCLUSIVE QUALITY EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN WITH ALBINISM HELD ON 11TH OF JULY, 2019 AT CRYSTAL PALACE HOTEL, GRA-ENUGU
Owing o severe discrimination and a general lack of information, teachers and personnel trained in special education especially for children with albinism are hard to come by. The teachers and staff who work with children with albinism in schools throughout the country generally do not have special education training that will cater for children with albinism. In fact, many schools do not have the luxury of hiring teachers with any extensive training especially that would take care of children with albinism. This has been a challenge in imparting knowledge to children with albinism in schools.
Group photographs of participants at the end of the workshop
Unfortunately, there has not been any special training for the teachers that will ensure that they are adequately equipped with the skills to cater for children with albinism. Teacher training is one of the most promising opportunities for improvement in providing pupils and students with albinism genuine access to the curriculum. Albinism identification is on the rise, while the push for inclusion and least restrictive environment has begun to erode the traditional wall between special and regular education settings. The need for ‘high quality’ teachers equipped to meet the needs of all learners becomes evident to provide not only equal opportunities for all, but also education for an inclusive society. It is the knowledge, beliefs and values of the teacher that are brought to bear in creating an effective learning environment for pupils, making the teacher a critical influence in education for inclusion and the development of an inclusive school.
Teachers should identify pupils with albinism at the start of their school career, so that appropriate measures can be put in place immediately to alleviate their visual impairment, protect their skin and facilitate their learning. Teachers must be in a position to confront the knowledge and experiences which prospective teachers in inclusive education bring to their learning and be able to engage in dialogue about complex issues of culture, language, albinism and inclusion.
The aim of the sensitization workshop is to improve the knowledge and skills of primary and secondary school teachers that provide special education and related services for children with albinism in regular classroom in order to improve enrollment, retention and transition.
Cross section of participants at the workshop
3.0 Opening Session
The programme started at 10:30 am with an opening prayer said by one of the participants. In her welcome remark, the Permanent Secretary, Enugu State Ministry of Education, Mrs. Nwanneka represented by Mrs. Ayogu, Director of schools in the Ministry thanked and appreciated the Foundation for bringing the programme to the state. She stated that the world is moving towards inclusive education where all children learn in the same environment irrespective of their disability, age, sex, colour, ethnicity etc. She added that the participants were selected from their various schools so as to ensure that they step down the training to their respective schools. She urged participants to be attentive and learn one or two things that will help them in the teaching and learning of children with albinism and other disabilities in their classrooms.
In his opening remark, the Founder/CEO of the Foundation, Mr. Jake Epelle thanked the teachers and educators for coming to the workshop. He stated that the workshop was very dear to him following his experiences while going through schools when he was very much younger. He stated that based on his experiences, he would not want other children to pass through such an ugly situation. He added that the workshop was to sensitise and educate the teachers and educators on how to deal with children with albinism and other disabilities in the classroom in order to enhance enrollment, retention and transition that will help them live a better life in their adult age. He stated that persons with albinism are no longer called albinos since the word is derogatory. He urged the participants to use the rights language when addressing persons with albinism since it will help build their self-esteem.
Also in his welcome address, the Enugu State coordinator of the Foundation, Mr. Emeka Ugwu thanked the participants for making out time to be part of the workshop. He specifically thanked the Permanent Secretary Enugu State Ministry of Education and the Director of schools for mobilizing the teachers and educators for the workshop. He stated that teachers are the life wire of any nation and urged them to be dedicated to their duties by ensuring that all children are mainstreamed and are learning effectively in the same environment.
4.0 Plenary Session (Experience Sharing)
The experience sharing was meant to provide insight on what children with albinism pass through while attending school. People selected at the plenary were a person with albinism, parent of a child with albinism and a teacher. The session was anchored by Enugu State Chapter Coordinator of the Foundation, Mr. Emeka Ugwu.
The first to share her experience was Mrs. Helen Ozor, a teacher. She stated that she does not have a child with albinism in her class but have two children with albinism in the school. She said that the children were twins and were always with each other. She mentioned that they were very reserved and always on their own not relating with other children in the school. She said she took interest in them and decided to approach them and make friends with them. According to her, she discovered that the children were reserved as a result of stigma associated with albinism and would not like to mingle with their peers in school. She stated that she had to council them and made sure they participate in all school activities especially the indoor ones. With that experience, according to her the two children became very active in school and were friends with most pupils in the school. She advised teachers to always look out for children with albinism and other disabilities in their school and help them overcome their self-esteem. She said it will go a long way in improving their academic and adult live.
The second participant who shared her experience was a mother of a child with albinism, Mrs. Ijeoma Nduka. According to her, when the child was a baby, people saw her backing her child and thought she was carrying a doll and made gest at her. She said she was used to being embarrassed until she summoned courage and confronted it by standing bold and telling people off whenever the occasion came up. She stated that when the child entered Nursery school, she complained of not able to see the class board, then she decided to go to the school and complained about what the child was passing through to the class teacher and told her of the need to give her all the necessary assistance to enable her cope in the classroom. She added that after meeting with the class teacher she became so intelligent and bold. The woman stated that in every class the child moves to, she always visit the teacher and ensures that the teacher gives the child all the necessary assistance. She added that it has helped the child to grow both in confidence and in academics and has been in the first position since then. She urged teachers to always help in grooming every child especially children with all forms with disabilities. She added that if they are stigmatised and discriminated in school it will affect the child’s overall performance in class and in growing up as an adult.
A mother of a child with albinism sharing her experience
In her experience sharing, a person with albinism, Miss Vivian Anyadiofu, teacher and member of the Albino Foundation, Enugu Chapter stated that when she was growing up and attending school she fought on a daily basis due to name calling from peers. She said she had a twin sister who is not a person with albinism. She said being a person with albinism contributed to her being a very shy person; she was always withdrawn from other peers especially when she was in primary school. She stated that she overcame the stigma and name calling immediately she entered secondary school due to encouragement from her parents and family members. She urged teachers to always encourage children with albinism in schools and out of school by counselling and protecting them from their peers in school.
To sum up the experience sharing, Mr. Emeka Ugwu shared his experience on how he almost dropped out of school on three occasions. He stated that the first was when he was in primary school while the other two occasions was in the University. He stated that if not for his parents especially his mother and a friend in the University he would have been a drop out due to frustration from school. He told the teachers that their actions and inactions in the classrooms will determine the future of thousands of children with albinism they will be tutoring and urged them to be good ambassadors of albinism and other disabilities.
5.0 Technical Session
The first presentation at the workshop was on Albinism, Myths and Misconceptions by the Founder/CEO of the Foundation, Mr. Jake Epelle. He stated that most challenges faced by persons with albinism, especially children with albinism in schools was as a result of erroneous traditional and cultural beliefs in some communities in Nigeria. He said that such beliefs has hindered the socio-economic and political development of persons with albinism in Nigeria. He outlined some of the myths and misconceptions associated with albinism and urged participants to discard such beliefs which is false and should be disregarded. Some of the myths and misconceptions included:
Myth: The mother slept with a white man.
Fact: This is not true. Children born with albinism may look ‘white’ due to absent or reduced pigmentation of melanin but are not products of cross race relationships.
Myth: That a child born with albinism is conceived when a woman has intercourse while she is menstruating.
Fact: This is biologically impossible.
Myth: That albinism occurs to people who fail to eat salt.
Fact: Albinism is a genetic condition and has nothing to do with salt.
Myth: That albinism is a punishment or a curse from the gods or ancestral spirits due to wrongs done in the family
Fact: Albinism is a genetic condition that is passed on from parents to children. Many people are carriers of this recessive gene. Albinism is not a curse.
Myth: Persons with albinism cannot see during the day but see well at night.
Fact: Persons with albinism have visual impairments due to lack of melanin pigmentation in the retina. They can see during the day and also at night though they may either be short or long sighted and may need sight aids.
Myth: That people living with albinism are blind
Fact: Persons living with albinism are not necessarily blind but all forms of albinism are associated with some form of vision impairment. However they have enough vision to carry out daily living activities albeit with a variety of challenges.
Myth: That body parts of persons living with albinism make potent charms that can make people rich and successful
Fact: This is absolutely not true. It is a myth spread by witchdoctors in order to enrich themselves at the expense of others
In his conclusion, he urged the participants to use their position as teachers to make a difference in the society by ensuring that all learners learn in the same environment without any form of discrimination.
The second presentation on Health Challenges in Albinism was presented by Mr. Damian Ivom, National Programme/Project Manager of the Foundation. He started by defining what albinism is and what it is not and types of albinism. He stated that there are two major challenges experienced by persons with albinism, which includes, skin and visual challenges. He spoke about signs of skin cancer, in which he stated that skin cancers develops primarily on areas of exposed to the sum most, such as, the face, lips, scalp ears and neck, legs especially in women etc. Skin cancers affect people of all skin tones, however, persons with albinism are at greater risk because of the absence or deficiency of melanin. Skin cancer is better managed if found early; any change on your skin especially in size or colour such as a mole, spot or mark, scaliness, roughness, oozing, bleeding, a non-healing ulcer, a change in sensation, e.g. itchiness, tenderness or pain could be a sign.
A cross section of participants at the workshop
He also talked about the risk factors for skin cancer, which he highlighted as:
- Fair skin: regardless of skin colour anyone can be at risk
- History of sunburn
- People living at high altitudes: increased risk of exposure
- Excessive sun exposure
- Precancerous skin lesions: actinic keratoses
- History of Skin cancer
- Irradiation: Ultraviolet light therapy
- Exposure to substances: Arsenic
In addition, he stated that cumulative sun exposure /damage is the major cause of skin problems in persons with albinism. He said that skin cancer can be prevented by the following points:
- Early introduction of sun protection methods in childhood
- Avoid the sun during the peak ultraviolet radiation hours 10am and 4pm.
- Schedule outdoor activities for the other times of the day.
- Wear your sunscreen year round on all exposed parts of the body.
- Wear protective clothing that covers your arms and legs
- Broad brimmed hats and sunglasses.
- Stay under the shade, use umbrellas etc.
- Regular skin check and reporting changes to your doctor. (Many patients present late with advanced cancers)
On low vision in albinism, he explained that low vision is a condition in which the best corrected visual acuity is below 6/18 or visual field of 20 degrees or less in the better eye and added that most persons with albinism have low vision. He highlighted the challenges in low vision as seen in albinism to include:
- Difficulty in reading.
- Difficulty seeing things on the blackboard.
- Clumsiness in moving around.
- Poor facial recognition and social interactions.
- Limitation in some sports activities.
- Low self-esteem.
- Feelings of frustration and anger.
He also highlighted how low vision could be managed in persons with albinism especially children, which he outlined as below:
- Using enough light and position the light well.
- Moving closer to the object or vice versa.
- Making the object bigger.
- Making the object bolder.
- Using other senses.
In his conclusion, he recommended the following in order to mitigate the challenges faced by children with albinism in classroom:
- More time be allotted to students with low vision to complete visual tasks.
- Dictation of notes or giving out copies to them instead of letting them copy from the board.
- Large print books be available.
- Teachers and parents should monitor how well a child is doing with the measures used and not to assume anything.
A cross section of participants at the workshop
The third and last presentation was on improving the teaching and learning for children with albinism in schools by the Founder/CEO of the Foundation, Mr. Jake Epelle. He began by posing the following questions to the participants, what can I do? How can I ensure that a child with albinism have access to quality education? He followed the questions with what should be done, which includes, showing compassion; understanding that the child has needs; understanding that the future of the child depends on the teacher and ensuring that the child learns in the same environment with other children.
His presentation looked at the following in order to ensure that children have access to quality inclusive education:
- Ensure that children with albinism are seated where they can best see the blackboard. Please allow them to experiment with sitting closer to the board to see if this will help them.
- Larger print or use of a hand-held magnifier helps some children. If this becomes embarrassing to them as they grow older, at least see whether they might be willing to use these aids for home study. Many places where photocopies are made can enlarge text.
- Class teachers can give a child with albinism his/her note to copy before the lesson.
- For many children with albinism, increasing the contrast in print is even more effective than increasing the size.
- Excuse children with albinism from physical education class or adapting your program to meet their needs.
- Permitting the child to wear dark sunglasses whenever he is outside.
- Please do all you can to protect these children from teasing and ridicule born out of ignorance.
- If some classrooms in the school are noisier than others – (noise from busy roads, trains, airports or factories), the school should be flexible and move the class who has a child with albinism (as well as classes who have children with hearing impairment or other disabilities) to a less noisy classroom.
- You may need to spend some time in school assembly talking about albinism.
- Spend some time to explain to the child with albinism about the process of learning in class before they start, especially in classes where series of different activities are required, such as in science experiments, physical education, cooking and crafts classes.
- Read everything that is written on the blackboard aloud and slowly.
- Try to speak while facing the children (not away from them) because children with albinism greatly depend on their hearing to receive information, and they need to hear you clearly.
At the end of the presentations, questions were asked on various issues on albinism. Some of the questions include:
- Is albinism hereditary?
- Can skin cancer affect persons without albinism?
- How can teachers protect children with albinism in schools?
- Is there any way albinism can prevented
These questions were adequately answered by Mr. Epelle and Mr. Damian
At the end of the presentations, the following recommendations were proposed by the participants:
- More of this sensitisation workshops should be organized at the grassroots.
- There should be booklets on teachers’ education for children with albinism.
- Teaching aids should be provided in schools to facilitate adequate teaching and learning for all children irrespective of disabilities.
- Reading devices should be provided for children with albinism and other visually impaired children to aid their performance in class.
- Parents and persons with albinism should educated and sensitized on the issues and challenges associated with albinism.
In conclusion, the workshop provided opportunity for the participants to understand the issues and challenges faced by children with albinism in classrooms and its immediate environment. The participants were highly excited and confessed that the workshop has opened their eyes on albinism, which they said will go a long way in alleviating the many myths and misconceptions associated with albinism both within and outside the school environment. They promised to put in their best towards carrying the message to their various schools. At the end of the workshop, 171 teachers and educators (Male: 15 and Female: 156) attended the workshop.