In Nigeria lives a lawyer, writer and advocate for people living with disability who is turning around the educational experience for children with CP.
Tobiloba Ajayi was born with CP but has risen above her limitations to achieve great things; It’s something she largely attributes to having access to an inclusive education.
Now she is working towards making that opportunity available to other Nigerian children with CP through her not-for-profit, The Let CP Kids Learn Foundation.
Officially launching on the 25 March 2017, the Let CP Kids Learn Foundation began with a symposium to give all children access to mainstream classrooms and curriculums in order to learn.
Tobiloba’s admirable vision was: “A Nigeria where children with CP are offered inclusive mainstream education as a first option and as a right.”
“The Foundation is there to ensure that children with CP have the same quality of education as their neuro typical peers so that they’re prepared to live life on their own terms,” she says.
The Foundation has a five-step approach
1. Counselling and school readiness assessments
This is the first point of call with the parents and the child with CP. It’s about helping them to understand the diagnosis and enables the Foundation to assess the support the child will need to enter mainstream education.
This is the step where the child and their parents are connected with all the relevant medical and para-medical professionals the child might need during the process of managing their CP.
3. School placement support
At this point, the Foundation will work with the families to find appropriate schools as close to home – and as within their budget – as they can.
4. Inclusion support services for schools
Where the school is new to inclusion, or new to CP, the Foundation offers the school support to be able to meet the needs of the child in the classroom. That support ranges from teacher training through to CP friendly learning aids.
5. Teacher and school training
The Foundation provides training to teachers and schools that are looking to move towards education that is inclusive of children with CP. The training demystifies CP and equips participants with the tools to support and differentiate learning for a child with CP in the classroom.
Tobiloba explains that: “With every child we have placed, we continue to monitor progress and are quick to wade in once the school or parent has a concern about the process.”
Breaking down barriers
Like in many countries, there are a number of barriers facing children with Cerebral Palsy which prevent them from accessing mainstream schools in Nigeria.
Tobiloba outlines the following barriers:
- Attitudinal: Government, Educators and even parents believe that children with Cerebral Palsy do not belong in mainstream schools. Tobiloba reports hearing the exact words: “These children CANNOT learn.”
- Segregation: The proliferation of segregated schools in the name of special education, especially by government. “Unfortunately, these schools provide next to zero relevant education to the students [with cerebral palsy],”explains Tobiloba.
- Teacher knowledge and skill gap: “A lot of general education teachers have no clue about how to differentiate learning for a child with Cerebral Palsy,” says Tobiloba.
- Societal stigma: Sadly, Tobiloba has heard of schools that have included children with Cerebral Palsy, reporting a reduction in their neuro-typical student population as parents complained about having children with Cerebral Palsy in their ‘normal’ children’s class.
- Cost of resources: The cost and lack of access to appropriate supports in the schools and classrooms makes the cost of inclusive education prohibitive for parents.
Hosting symposia has helped the Let CP Kids Learn Foundation convey their key messages to parents and educators in order to break down some of these barriers.
The team has linked with BENOLA Cerebral Palsy Initiative and an early childhood education specialist to provide a range of perspectives on the issue.
As at 13 May 2019 – when Tobiloba submitted her application for the World CP Day 2019 Education Award – the Let CP Kids Learn Foundation had reached a total of 201 families and successfully placed around 60 children in mainstream schools.
More than 400 teachers have also been trained and the Foundation now has a list of roughly 40 partner schools open to the inclusive education of children with CP.
Tobiloba says the Foundation has plans for an Inclusive Education Academy where schools and teachers can come to learn the skills and strategies they need for successful inclusion.
However, their first steps will be to start working with small businesses so that they’re ready when the current crop of children with CP are ready to seek employment.
“We want to ensure small businesses have an inclusive ethos so that our children who are currently in the school system will not have to face discrimination in the workplace,” Tobiloba says.
The Let CP Kids Learn Foundation won the Major Award for Education in the 2019 World Cerebral Palsy Day Awards.
To learn more about the Let CP Kids Learn Foundation, visit their website.