They say, “necessity is the mother of invention.” Nowhere else is this so true as in “Third World” nations – where the average person is always trying to get their heads above the water and where survival is the norm and most folks can be found doing “whatever it takes” on a daily basis.
Ernest Ehabe, our president painted a room in the spring of 2016 in his house in Douala to providing specialized tutoring for his special needs child. Little did he and his wife know this would evolve so rapidly to include several special needs children. Soon their home turned into a school (without any kind of advertising). By September 2016 the school moved to a semi-permanent structure and fully begin operating a school with an emphasis on special needs education. We have named the school RAY OF HOPE ACADEMY.
In Africa – where most people are still very superstitious, autism and other educational special needs are generally attributed to witchcraft and the child being a bad omen. Sadly, this is a belief held even by Christians. Consequently, special needs children are seen as a nuisance and a drain on a family’s limited finances. In some circles, they are neglected. There are no provision or emphasis, even by the government or educational institutions, for this segment of society. There are only a handful of speech or occupational therapists in the whole country of Cameroon. They are busy and their fees are very high. The average person can not afford their services.
Only one school in Cameroon has attempted to integrate autistic children in their system. Sadly, they are all lumped in one classroom and parents have to pay a whopping $1,000 and more a month for services which are minimal and rendered by folks with little or no training. In a country where the average monthly wage is less than $200, only the very few super “rich” can afford this kind of school.
We have built a model school and community. At Ray of Hope academy our uniqueness comes from our ability to address two key factors impeding the education of special needs children in Cameroon: inclusion and affordability. Our classrooms combine regular (neuro-typical) and special needs (neuro-diversive) children. We use an inclusive but differentiated teaching approach. This has been successful and fruitful in creating an enabling environment.
In the area of affordability we have endeavored to bring down the cost of education so that the average family can afford to send their kids to a pilot and model school like ours. More than half of our students are on full or partial scholarships. We are working on attracting more families that can pay so that the school can become sustainable.
Together, we can effect positive and lasting change to the glory of the ONE who came so we may all have BREAD FOR LIFE!
We are looking for:
People, short or long-term:
• Therapists with training in ABA therapy and in PECs.
• Special Ed teachers
• Speech therapists
• Occupational Therapists
• Child Psychologists who can help with training and in evaluating each child.
Provisions and support:
• Financial support to get this school up and running.
• School supplies, pens, pencils, and crayons, text-books, exercise books, wall charts, smart boards, Coloring and drawing books, books for the library, etc.
• Sensory and motor skill development equipment.
• Mini iPads/tablets
• Musical instruments
• Canteen and office equipment and supplies.
• Infirmary supplies
We are starting with four full-time teachers. Only one is trained (in sign language), the rest could use some training. Ernest and his wife have put their LIFE (Labor, Influence, Finances & Expertise) into this. They are reading up everything they can, researching and learning and passing on the knowledge to the small staff.