Photo Documentary

From Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou and Kaya

Part 1 - Visits to Disability Programs

The Ouagadougou Center and School for the Blind

The School for Blind Youth In the capital city of Oagadougou was one of the first programs we visited. It is assisted by Light for the World (LFTW), the Dutch NGO that sponsored my workshop.

Blind children attend this special school for the first six years, and then are mainstreamed into normal schools. However most of the public schools and their teachers are poorly prepared to accommodate the needs of the disabled children. Therefore Light for the World, collaborating with OCADES (Caritas in Burkina Faso) and other organizations, provides special training to teachers. In addition, these organizations attempt to raise awareness in general, since there are still a lot of fears and superstitions regarding people with disabilities.

A blind child greets me and Philippe Compaore, Light for the World’s project assistant for inclusive education in Burkina Faso.

Meeting the director of the school for blind children

One of the classrooms with blind children.

In preparation for learning Braille, children arrange small pebbles in patterns on a grid.

Many of the children use Braille to study their lessons.

A copy machine for reproducing materials in Braille. The program produces learning material in Braille, not only for its own school, but for other schools that are beginning to mainstream blind students.

The spirit of Child-to-Child comes naturally here. Older blind children often guide and teach younger ones.

Children with limited vision are willing guides for those who are totally blind.

Visits in Kaya

Staff from the Light for the World took me to visit the town of Kaya, 200 km northeast of Oagadougou. Kaya is the base for one of the seven Community Based Rehabilitation projects assisted by LFTW.

The Community Based Rehabilitation project in KAYA

Here some of the staff and “CBR agents” of the Kaya Community Based Rehabilitation project pose with Elie Bagbila (on right) and me. Elie is Light for the World’s country representative. He has a more personal understanding of people with disabilities because he has a weak leg due to polio as a child.

The Kaya CBR team welcomed me warmly. They presented me with a handmade leather briefcase and an artistic map of Africa. They call the French edition of Disabled Village Children their “bible.” I was happy to see that all the rehab programs I visited make good use of my book. Light for the World is currently planning to translate the companion book, Nothing About Us Without Us, into French, partly because it has examples of Child-to-Child activities for inclusion of disabled children.

Center for Deaf Children in Kaya

On the outskirts of Kaya is remarkable school and training center for deaf children and youth.

Staff of the Kaya CBR center took us to visit this remarkable training center for deaf children, with which LFTW and the CBR program collaborate.

The CSHA School is “inclusive” in that it has both deaf and non-deaf pupils: 160 in all. The youngsters appear to enjoy it and get along well. The Center provides scholarships to the deaf children from poor families. Over half of the children attending the school are deaf.

The daughter of the CSHA’s founder is among the hearing children who attend the school. Because the quality of teaching is much better than in the regular schools, plenty of non-disabled children attend.

This teacher, who is deaf, attended the CSHA school as a boy, and now teaches here. He is a great role model for the children, whom he treats with friendly respect.

Classes are small, with lots of individual attention, whereas in the standard schools classrooms have up to 70 pupils.

The CSHA teaches the children to use sign language, and tries to mainstream them into regular schools as soon as possible. But most schools and teachers are poorly equipped to include them. Light for the World, which helps sponsor CSHA, is collaborating to train teachers in normal schools to better meet the needs of deaf, blind, and other disabled children.

For the deaf children, their hands are their tongues.

The Morija Orthopedic Center, Kaya

This large, high quality rehabilitation and surgical center in Kaya was set up by a Swiss NGO. Although it is run and staffed by local doctors and therapists, a team of orthopedic surgeons and other specialists fly in from Switzerland four to five times a year. Services for the poor are virtually free. Special facilities are provided so that relatives can stay there with their disabled family member for as long as is needed.

The Morija Center provides referral services for the Kaya Community Based Rehabilitation project, as well as the other CBR projects supported by Light for the World and OCADES (Caritas, the Catholic assistance program).

The therapy room of the Morija Center is well equipped with modern equipment, yet has a friendly, down-to-earth atmosphere.

Here a local physiotherapist teaches a brain-injured man’s wife to help with his exercises.

Home visits, Kaya

The CBR agents of the project near Kaya took me to visit the homes of two disabled children.

This child has epilepsy and developmental delay. Epilepsy can be a major stigma, since many people believe the person with fits is possessed by evil spirits. Dispelling these beliefs is a big challenge for the CBR agents.

Here Elie Bagbila, the country representative for Light for the World in Burkina Faso, greets a disabled child in the family home, near Kaya. The little boy has cerebral palsy with a lot of spasticity.

This special seat, brought from Holland and made of molded plastic, doesn’t work well for the spastic boy, who constantly slips forward.

We tried positioning the child better and holding him in place with the attached seatbelt.

But the belt was attached so high that with his spasms the child soon thrusted forward under it.

Although the child’s spastic feet pushed stiffly downward, I found that by bending his knee, his foot could be slowly raised to less than 90 degrees. We suggested that his mother do these exercises regularly, to prevent contractures that could reduce later possibilities for walking.

As is common in CBR programs in many countries, much more attention tends to be placed on children’s social needs than physical needs, and often the assistive equipment provided is unsatisfactory. An example is this girl’s oversized wheelchair. Notice the distance between her feet and the footrests! Also, the chair is so wide, it makes it harder for her to push it herself, perpetuating her dependency on others.