For many years, the school for children with special needs in Isulo, Orumba-South LGA, Anambra state, suffered neglect and abandonment until the wife of the governor, Chief Dr Mrs Ebelechukwu Obiano rescued it from desolation and saved the children from what appeared a disastrous end.
“The school wears a new look with a hostel and teacher’s quarters built by the Obiano administration. We even built a secondary school there but what we met on ground is unimaginable”, said Commisioner for Basic Education, Prof Kate Omenugha during an interactive meeting tagged ‘Meet the Media’ with members of the Governor’s media team on Tuesday.
“We met them as people who have been forgotten by society. The school and entire environment was deplorable. You couldn’t believe that people lived there”, she bemoaned. “But we set to work and before long, we turned the school around to a habitable environment befitting humans. It was the wife of the Governor, Dr Ebelechukwu Obiano that led the campaign”, recalled Omenugha.
“She lost sleep over the sad experience. She was so troubled that she called me and cried, saying, “I have been looking for these children all my life and here they are at my doorstep; I am leaving them, doing nothing”. Then driven by passion, she declared, “We must do something. Hon Commissioner, I will not leave you until you do something about these children”.
“That declaration sparked off the turning around of the Isulo school and initiated the amazing transformational intervention of the Obiano administration in schools and facilities for children with special needs across the state”, Omenugha enthused.
Gov Obiano’s educational policy of not leaving any child behind manifested quickly as government moved in to rebuild the school for special children, Isulo.
According to Omenugha, “we built hostels, teachers quaters and set up a secondary school there. Government gave them free tuition just as it gave other physically challenged students schooling in Anambra state. The Governor also increased their monthly subvention from a paltry N50, 000.00 to N500, 000.00 monthly to ensure that the children are well taken care of.
“The children have not been taking promotion examinations. Those who got to Primary Six kept repeating the class. Many of them were abandoned by their parents but I’m happy to announce that the students at Isulo will be taking their first WAEC this year. They have also grown from about 100 students to 300 because more students have been joining since the transformation of the school”.
Continuing, she said that Gov Obiano has brought life back to the children and their teachers. They now participate in marking international events like the World Disability Day. “But they are taught to believe that there’s ability in their disability”, she revealed. “During an event to mark the day in recent past, the children participated in debate, beauty contest and other games. It was part of the initiative that made the Governor to engage sign language experts to teach the children to communicate more effectively”,she noted.
Prof Omenugha further disclosed that the Anambra state government under Gov Willie Obiano, runs an all inclusive policy in the education sector. “We have involved them in all we do including what we call boot camping which we have done about three times now. Before Covid-19 and consequent closure of schools, we had taken opportunity of holiday periods to take them to the youth village at Mgbakwu where we trained them on a lot of things including bead making, painting, music, photography etc. We help them learn skills. We also do exhibitions where we open for people to come and see what they have made and patronize them too. We have over 350 students whom we have given scholarships especially those who have lost their parents”.
“They are part of the few remaining innocents of the world”, opined Ify Aronu-Okafor, a senior special assistant to Gov Obiano on broadcasting. “Most lacking the mental capacity to differentiate wrong from right, often and without inhibitions, exhibit the beautiful, rare qualities in human nature – love, compassion, friendship. Their simple minds, unburdened by the complexities of their young world, find expression easily in toothy grins and genuine offerings of friendship.
“Their needs span no less than that of every human, yet they suffer neglect and abandonment even by their biological parents, extended families and the society. However they are classified, medically and otherwise, we have come to know and identify them as special children with special needs. Thank God for Gov Obiano, whose timely intervention rescued and restored them to their rightful place among us”.
By Ikenna Aniagboso