During a tour of Perkins School for the Blind, two visitors from Ghana hoped to catch a glimpse of the future of deafblind education in their country.
They may have seen it in teacher Sharon Stelzer’s classroom.
The visitors – Dr. Peter Kwabena Obeng Asamoa, executive director at Ghana Blind Union (GBU), and Elizabeth Ladjer Bibi Agbettor, GBU’s program manager for inclusion – watched Stelzer use a variety of methods to bring a story to life for students with deafblindness. Stelzer adapted her lesson to fit each student’s interests and abilities, and used fun activities to engage them.
“In Ghana, our classes are not as small as this,” Obeng Asamoa said later. “Our teachers are really stretched out. Here you give teachers a chance to give a lot of attention to kids’ individual needs.”
Obeng Asamoa and Agbettor visited Perkins in early July. As representatives of Ghana’s largest blindness advocacy organization, they had noticed that many children with visual impairments in their country also had difficulty hearing, and that many children in a school for the deaf had low vision.
“We wanted to know about the kind of services you have here for children and young adults,” Obeng Asamoa said. “We want to see how we can use what you provide (and bring those ideas) to our own people.”
Obeng Asamoa and Agbettor said they were impressed by the way Perkins integrates parents into the educational process, and encourages families to provide learning opportunities for children at home. The culture is different in Ghana, where education usually stops when a child goes home, they said.
“Many of our parents are not literate, and do not know they can play a role in their child’s education,” Obeng Asamoa said. “(They see education as the) responsibility of professionals to handle. Parent involvement is something we’re really going to have to pay attention to when we get back.”
Perkins International, a longtime partner of the Ghana Blind Union, has worked with GBU to start deafblind units in two schools for the deaf in Ghana. But the visit to Perkins made Obeng Asamoa and Agbettor realize how much more can be done to support students with deafblindness.
“Resources are a challenge, and we’ll have to start looking for support,” Obeng Asamoa said. “It won’t be easy, but we’ll do it.”
The Ghana Blind Union, which has over 10,000 members and 143 local branches, works to improve the lives of people who are blind in the West African nation. It advocates for education, training and rehabilitation for people who are blind or partially sighted.