In Ghana, about 840,000 people live with some form of disability and 25% of them are children under the age of nineteen. Thus, 210,000 children in Ghana live with visual, hearing, physical, emotional, or intellectual disabilities, all of which fall under the category of developmental delays or limits. Research regarding the stigma and misconceptions that these children face in African societies is limited and in Ghana is almost nonexistent. Most research regarding the types, prevalence, and causes of developmental disabilities comes from Europe, North America, and Australia and very few findings come from African countries.
The purpose of my research is to help identify culturally appropriate ways to teach community education classes in Ghana that will address the traditional beliefs about children with developmental disabilities. Once we have a better understanding of the traditional beliefs that exist, we can tailor the education classes so they will be better received by community members. Some of the interview questions asked the participants how they thought we could best teach the community and what information they would want others to know about children with developmental disabilities. If we can build rapport and trust by using Ghanaian culture, then we can change the status quo.
Here in Ghana the status quo is to treat children with developmental disabilities as outcasts or objects. They are not treated well by the community and sometimes even by their own family and parents. They are denied education, they beg on the streets, and they are abandoned without any hope of achieving a better life. People here are scared of, feel awkward around, and believe that children with disabilities are not even human. But they are just like us and have many skills and talents to offer. Their disability does not mean they should be shunned or made to live in extreme poverty. It’s time to change the conversation and challenge the status quo here and we can do that by educating the communities with culturally appropriate classes.