A new guide on sensory disability for student teachers is bridging the education gap in Côte d’Ivoire

Teachers in Côte d’Ivoire often misinterpret and downplay sensory disabilities, despite their significant effect on children’s learning capacity. A new guide, developed with the support of GPE’s Education Out Loud, now equips them to identify and better support children with sensory disabilities.

October 09, 2023 by Dominique Ngoma Nkenzo, Education Out Loud
5 minutes read
Teacher students learning about new explanatory document on sensory illnesses. Credit: RIP-EPT
Teacher students learning about new explanatory document on sensory illnesses.
Credit: RIP-EPT

Across the globe, people with disabilities have lower literacy rates than people without disabilities. Côte d’Ivoire is no exception, where the rate of retention or completion of school for people with disabilities has seen little progress despite the government’s National Strategy for Inclusive Schools (Stratégie Nationale de l'Ecole Inclusive – SNEI).

Many children with disabilities have been left behind in Côte d’Ivoire’s public schools, especially in remote areas, due to a lack of awareness and understanding surrounding disability. This is why the Education Out Loud partner, the National Education for All Coalition in Côte d’Ivoire (Réseau Ivoirien pour la Promotion de l’Éducation Pour Tous – RIP-EPT) made students with disabilities a priority focus in 2022.

Four new members were added to the coalition to strengthen its inclusiveness, and to enhance the effectiveness of its inclusive education advocacy, including:

  • L’Organisation Nationale des Parents des Handicapés Auditifs de Côte d’Ivoire – ONPHA-CI (The National Organization of Parents of the Hearing Impaired of Côte d'Ivoire)
  • L’Union des Organisations des Parents des Personnes Handicapés de Côte d’Ivoire – UNOPAH-CI (The Union of Organizations of Parents of Persons with Disabilities in Côte d'Ivoire)
  • L’ONG HANHIMANTI de personnes non voyantes (NGO for the visually impaired)
  • Confédération des Organisations des Personnes Handicapées de Côte d’Ivoire – COPH-CI (The Confederation of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities of Côte d’Ivoire).

This action was the coalition’s deliberate effort to capture the insights, opinions and participation of the targeted groups. In doing so, they have advanced the inclusivity principle “Nothing about us without us” in their interventions.

“Fast-forward, we started giving the lead to our new organization members when it came to issues related to disabilities.”

Jacques Kwacy, project officer, RIP-EPT

The primary challenge new coalition members raised was how sensory disabilities are most often misinterpreted and downplayed despite their significant effect on children’s learning capacity, whether straining their focus in class or increasing the likelihood of school dropout.

Most school authorities and teachers in Côte d’Ivoire are not knowledgeable enough about sensory disabilities, nor are they equipped to retain children with sensory disability in school.

Teacher professional development for inclusive education practice

To address this knowledge gap in teacher training within the region, the coalition decided to produce an explanatory document on sensory impairment in collaboration with two consultants—one focused on visual impairment and the other on hearing impairment.

The guide was developed to equip teachers to identify and better support children with sensory disability by setting out strategies for detecting visual and hearing disabilities, and proposing ways in which teaching as well as supervisory staff can support learning for students with identified disabilities.

The guide was first presented to central education departments and civil society organizations, and then to teacher training colleges in September 2022 (Centres d'Animation et de Formation Pédagogiques – CAFOPs) both in script and braille forms in Ganoa, Aboisso and Daloa regions where the coalition operates.

One of the consultants for the guide, Dr Angoua Jean-Jacques Tano, lecturer-researcher in the Department of Language Sciences at the Université Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Abidjan noted: “The guide was a hit with the heads of the centers for educational activities and training for student teachers (CAFOPs) we visited and with the student teachers. This type of document was missing from their training insofar as they were told about inclusive schools but in a theoretical way. The information contained in the document was used to give greater visibility to the practical sessions.”

Building disability awareness within the community

One of the initial recipients of the guide was a student teacher who attended a dissemination session organized by the coalition in Daloa, a city in western Côte d’Ivoire. She was almost in tears, realizing that this was not only going to help her professionally.

“My brother showed these signs; we did not know what it was. We thought he was a distracted listener—little did we know he had a sensory disability. We did not seek help for him,” she said, eager to learn more to find ways to help her brother.

In total, 700 copies were printed—instead of the 500 initially planned—to respond to the requests and interest from educational actors.

The guide has served as a useful tool for teachers, and helped raise awareness of the issues people with disabilities face in education.

“We feel listened to since we became members of the Education for All Coalition. We carried out many actions alone in the past, but our voice was not strong enough to hit our target. Now, under the umbrella of the coalition, which is well known and influential, we organize events that are patronized by key actors and we have much more impact.”

Camille Tano from ONPHA-CI, General secretary of the coalition’s board of directors

Greater awareness of sensory disability

A year later, the coalition experienced the impact of their efforts first-hand when they saw, during a monitoring visit, that student teachers they had presented the guide to were seeing it as a tool to improve in their role as teachers.

“The explanatory guide on sensory disability/impairment has not only edified us, but we have a new way of interpreting children’s behavior in schools. We pay more attention to the signs. For instance, there is a child in my class, class 1, who always had discharges around his eyes. We thought he was not bathing well. We reported this to the relevant people and the child got the necessary treatment,” shared a second-year student teacher in Daloa.

Another teacher in training added: “I noticed a child always bending forward in class to hear well. Then I remembered what we were taught on sensory disability. I approached him, and upon confirmation, I informed his parents and since then I pay attention to ensure he is hearing me when I teach.”

The coalition is hopeful that, step by step, inclusive education will soon move from a concept and knowledge to a requirement for concrete results-driven actions that will eventually enable the provision of a quality education for all students across the country.

Read more about their work and mission via www.ripept.com

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I find this very useful to improve my profession. Many thanks.

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