When you hear the name “special school”, you should definitely know something is really special about the school. The learners in this school are steps outside the range of normalcy with conspicuous and latent traits defining them. I mean some of them are easily identified as persons with special needs mere looking at them, whilst others can make you go beyond being an ordinary observer before you know their category in the world of ” The Specials “.
As far as special education is concerned, there are disabilities of different kinds which include; visual impairment, hearing disability/impairment, speech defects, health and physical problems, learning disabilities and Intellectual disability (It is also known as mental retardation). The latter can be said to be the most chronic, owing to intellectual impediments embedded inside- it affects the brain functionality directly. And we all know the brain is the control centre of the body.
Before my seeming circumlocution frustrates your interest in this piece, let me at this point share with you, my experience as a special educator on a professional practice in a special school.
An average child in my school of practice is mentally retarded, albeit of varying lengths- there are the severe & profound, trainable and educable.
In the severe and profound section, the children barely do things independently. Yes, they are children but then there is a 50-year-old plus Idowu (we call him baba) in the class, struggling to live the life unwilled for him by God. Gruesome, isn’t it? This life is more complicated than I actually thought.
It is in the trainable section we have many lively and sociable children, but lacking a noticeable savoir-faire. While their learning is nothing to write home about, their sense of compliment, though is second to none. Hardly a day passed I would not hear sincere compliments like; “eh o, eh o… Bata yin fine o”(Your shoe is fine o) or “Aso yin fine o.. Mo like re” (This cloth is fine, I like it). At least, their compliments are true and sheer, not like those of some of the regular persons with retarded intents. However, the hope about them remains the fact that they can be trained in some vocations to enhance self-realisation.
Meanwhile, the case of children in the educable is quite different and mild, as far as the school categorisation is concerned. To a noticeable and minimal level, they could read and write. They could be sent on simple errands. They sing mellifluously and wonderfully. Bankole Ayomide the head perfect boy (as given to him by me) takes care of business in virtually every activity of the school. You would love to see Tosin Badmus dancing. No wonder the school even intends to give her out to the Olubadan of Ibadan as a bride. In the same vein, I will miss Linda Ogbonna’s walking agility and working enthusiasm. Little wonder she was chosen to represent Nigeria in a walk race in special Olympics 2007 held in China.
Unreservedly speaking, their meaningful and meaningless conversations, rational and irrational thinking but most importantly, their LOVE will be missed.
Further, being a special educator, particularly a specialist in the unit of Intellectual disability says a lot about the level of your empathy and patience. It takes an unusual commitment to oversee a life attribited with ravelled existence. The teachers of these pupils go extra miles to show kindness and affections towards these children, yet the government’s unfavourable policies remain a point of worry for these teachers in disseminating their duties. Why would a regular school curriculum be drafted for a special school since their educational attainments are conspicuously off comparison? It’s not only lame in thought by the government but it’s also a grotesque sarcasm to the intellectual capabilities of these children.
More so, talking of the structure of the school, I do not want to sound like an alarmist, but the structure of this school is quite alarming. Is it the dilapidated roofing I want to talk about? or the putrid pugnacious stench coming from every angle of the school? Maybe it is the absence of academic and vocational facilities i should emphasis on. The truth is, the school is pretty good as being neglected. There is no single vocational facility the pupils can be trained on, while there are no stimulating instructional materials to aid the learning of the educable as well.
The school roofing would make you doubt if it’s truly a learning centre or a jettisoned centre. The winners of the egregious state of this school structure are lizards and smokers. Lizards have secured many households in the schools wall openings. In the same vein, the school has become a joint for smokers who make use of the school without any obstruction. It is a matter of time before they become legal inhabitants of the school.
We have pleaded, we are pleading and we will never stop to plead our government to show more concern to the education and self-actualisation of these children. They are special for a reason, and this reason we should never drag through the mud. The importance of a cup is in its emptiness. If acquainted with some specific vocational works, they can be useful to themselves as well as to the country’s economic.
The fact is, they are also humans just as their peers in regular schools, but only victims of unfortunate circumstances. They deserve our unconditional LOVE.
KEKEEREKUN VICTOR is a final year student of the Department of Special Education, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He is a lover of good music and at present serves as the Editor of the Students’ Press Organisation in his Hall of Residence, Nnamdi Azikiwe Hall.