The Department of Special Education of the University of Makeni is striving to become the leading centre of excellence for specialist educational teaching in Sierra Leone.
Founded in 2005, the University of Makeni Department of Special Education began by establishing a training programme for Specialist Teachers of the hearing impaired. Since then we have trained dozens of teachers in partnership with St. Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired. The department now offers a diploma and Bachelor’s degree in Special Education with a choice of specialising in hearing impairments. To build on the success of the programme for Specialist Teachers of the Hearing Impaired the department is now working with international experts to develop a similar programme for Specialist Teachers of the visually impaired.
The department recently successfully hosted a teaching workshop for teachers of the visually impaired across Sierra Leone. In coordination with HKI, Texas Technical University and Perkins we provided a 5 day training programme for all head and deputy head teachers throughout the country teaching in the current schools for the visually impaired. Various international experts are now helping formulate a certificate course in Special Education with a focus on visually impairments due to commence in December 2012.
The department offers an 11 week programme for mainstream primary school teachers in the basics of special education. The training aims to empower teachers to identify, assess and intervene for children with disabilities in mainstream schools.
“In the future, it is the hope of the University of Makeni that basic special education training for mainstream teachers will be included in all of Sierra Leone’s teaching colleges.” – Umu Turay, University Lecturer
The Department of Special Education continues to actively advocate for compensation of Specialist Teachers. Teachers of children with disabilities are required to have an advanced understanding in their field of education. Specialist Teachers deserve to be compensated for their technical expertise, high level of study and the difficulty of their work. Without instituting a salary increase schools for children with disabilities across Sierra Leone will continue to struggle to attract and retain Specialist Teachers.
St. Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired, Makeni was established in 1979 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny. The school has become a pioneer of special education across Sierra Leone and now welcomes more than 251 students from across Sierra Leone. The St. Joseph’s School for the hearing impaired children is the only school in West Africa offering primary education and language acquisition according to the so-called Maternal Reflective Method (MRM) supported with sign language. This allows children to learn to speak, write and read in any language, makes them more capable of functioning in society, taking up official jobs or preparing them for further studies in secondary education or in University. The school’s primary objective is to provide an education for the students to then occupy their rightful places in their local society, both in the economic and cultural fields.
Student Success Story: Abdul Rahman Barrie
Abdul Rahman lost his hearing during Sierra Leone’s civil war. When St. Joseph’s reopened after the conflict, Abdul Rahman was enrolled in classes and began to learn lip reading. He was the first of St. Joseph’s graduates to sit for West Africa’s Basic Education Certificate Exam, scoring aggregate 19, an excellent result. Abdul Rahman is now attending the Murialdo Secondary School in Lunsar, learning side-by-side with hearing students.
“The way I see it, if this school had not helped me, I would not have succeeded. So that is why I love this school even more than my family.” – Abdul Rahman Barrie
read more here about work at St Joseph’s School for the Hearing Impaired.