Part III: Looking Ahead
Author: Sarah Kpentey
Q: What keeps you going?
Ms. Ubels: What keeps me going are the small things – the tiny pleasant surprises the children spring up. I also get great satisfaction when I notice all the children settled in the classrooms and actually learning. Then I know that we are making an impact.
Q: Where do you see SAP and yourself in the next 10yrs?
Ms. Ubels: Much will depend on the political will and economic developments for the education system. Much will depend also on capacity building and effective management of the system; to cut out waste; and focus on real learning and move on to learning instructions. Hopefully in the next few years we can have a lot of influence there.
Q: What do you see as the way forward?
Ms. Ubels: A few months ago, the (inclusive) education policy was launched. It is for our organization not to lose its focus in promoting inclusive education system. It is good that we’re helping children that are out of school but we should do more to prevent others from dropping out. The policy has set the legal framework in place and can be a springboard to monitor what is happening in the school. We can also contribute to that by devising learning solutions, providing information, training to provide instructions differently so children with problems can benefit and have better learning outcomes.
Q: What is the way to help parents know about the learning disabilities?
Ms. Ubels: It is all about knowledge and information. There are different approaches to it. One approach is to let the family know the problem is not peculiar to them or unique to their child; to show them that it is not novel. We also sometimes use examples of very successful people who had learning difficulties. It is also helpful when they see other children with similar problems.
We try to get them to look at the child as having a learning disability and not a spiritual problem; thus the child is learning and willing to learn. It is basically influencing people’s thinking to change their perception about their children. It is a bit complicated though. A lot of people are fixed in their opinion. “Oh this my child is a hopeless case and there is nothing that can be done.”
Q: What would you advise every parent in Ghana?
Ms. Ubels: Parents should be very patient and put themselves in the shoes of their children. First of all, always assume that your child is willing to learn; wants to grow and develop; and is not being intentionally contrary. Know that if your child shows negative behavior it means there is a problem.Observe him/her very closely to notice what is happening with him/her. Liaise with the teacher at the school he/she attends and be abreast with his/her progress. Supervise homework, monitor studies, and observe his /her concentration and attention during studies. If there is a problem, seek advice. Read about learning disorders; there is a lot of information on the internet. Parents should also push for a change in the educational system.
Q: How do you think we can adjust our lives?
Ms. Ubels: Personally, I think Ghanaians are too focused on money to the neglect of family. Ghana is a safe, beautiful country with nice and friendly people. However, because individuals are so focused on money, parents spend almost all their time at work amassing more and more money. Children are the first victims – they are left with little or no guidance. Families break up because of money and children are left in-between.
Very often the bottom line is money. I think that should change. People should change their mindset. Surviving is one thing but getting more and more is a completely different thing and people should draw a line somewhere and give more time and attention to their children. Priorities also need to be rearranged. It’s time to rate your children’s needs and school above funerals and weddings.
Q: How can people support the work with SAP?
Ms. Ubels: I’m really appealing to Ghanaians concerning this. These are Ghana’s children hence, our concern. The support we get from Ghana is not enough. We are quite dependent on support from outside Ghana and that’s not how it should be. If every Ghanaian will consider donating 5/10 cedis or more every month from their salary to the organization it will be of tremendous help. This will help us maintain our team and build out and expand capacity. Individuals, especially Ghanaian students, can also volunteer. There is information concerning that on our website. Individuals can also help spread the word about learning difficulties.