Disability has serious negative consequences in the education of children with disabilities(CWDs) living in most African communities both in special schools, the regular classroom system and in their communities.
Isolation: Most children with disabilities(CWDs) who attempt to be enrolled in the regular school system in most countries in Africa live very isolated lives in their classrooms as a result of their impairments, and this is sometimes accompanied by violence from both their peers and teachers. As a result many of them remain isolated in their classrooms and consequently drop-out of school.
It should be noted that if peers and teachers have negative attitudes and isolate CWDs, then it can affect their access to education. CWDs are isolated and dehumanized through abusive language. The study established that in some extreme cases, some able bodied children perceive some CWDs as contagious. Some fear them thinking that they can “transmit” their disability to them. In some extreme cases the superstitious parents of able bodied children have been known to deter their children from associating with CWDs.
The level of insult between able bodied children and CWDs is not grotesquely beyond the normal insults between able bodied children. What makes it different is that sometimes children being children will use CWDs deformities in their insults. The injury to children with disabilities doubles because they can’t hit back in equal terms.
Violence in Educational and Custodial setting: Apart from being isolated, disabled children in most African countries are often violated by their peers and teachers. Schools may cause exclusion when they are not able to deal with violence, bullying and abuse meted on children with disabilities.
Violence in non-residential schools. Regrettably, victimization of disabled children in school can begin even before the child enters the school premises. Because educational facilities for disabled children are rare, many children travel long distances to school. Reports of physical and sexual abuse by those responsible for transportation to and from school are common. Disabled children are often bullied, teased or subjected to physical violence (being beaten, stoned, spit upon, etc.) by members of the community on their way to and from school. A young girl of about 17 years who is physically impaired and who attends the Rehabilitation Centre at Etoug Ebe in Yaoundé-Cameroon confided to the researcher that each time she passes with her wheel chair along the Melen neighbourhood towards Lycée d’Etoug-Ebe she is always mocked at and this sometimes causes her not to go to school regularly.
Violence inside the classroom: Disabled children are often beaten, abused or bullied by teachers, particularly untrained teachers who do not understand the limitations of some disabled children. Also teachers who are not well paid sometime transfer their aggression towards CWDs. Children with intellectual disabilities and children with hearing impairments are particularly at risk, but reports worldwide find that all disabled children are potential victims. Sexual abuse by teachers is also widely reported for both male and female students.
Teachers that humiliate, bully or beat CWDs not only directly cause harm to the child, but model such behavior for other children in their classroom, who may follow the teacher’s lead in physically harming, bullying and socially isolating the targeted disabled child. Sexual abuse by fellow students is also a concern and is often linked to physical violence and bullying behaviors by such classmates.
The causes and consequences of childhood disability has resulted to many stereotypes and myths usually surrounding PWDs in the African society.
The way forward is for every disability advocate to continue sensitizing educational authorities, teachers, parents of both disabled and non-disabled children for them to understand that disability is not an illness nor a disease. It is simply a condition that can be changed if our communities and the society begin to accept persons with physical, emotional, sensory and developmental impairments as human beings by including them not only in regular classroom systems, but in all the developmental and decision making processes of their communities so they can lead a fulfilled life and maximize their God given potentials.