Inclusion of the visually impaired in secondary education in Ghana
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This study focuses on inclusive education for visually impaired and sighted students in a boarding institution in a secondary school in the southern part of Ghana. The study has been investigating two research questions namely; (a) Are the visually impaired students given any support during instructional hours? And (b) how do the non-visually impaired students relate with their visually impaired counterparts in terms of assistance given to them both in and outside the classroom? The objectives of the study are to explore the kind of support and teaching methods used by the teachers of the visually impaired during instructional hours and the second is to investigate the kind of attitudes and relationships that exist between the non-visually impaired students and their visually impaired counterparts in the school. The study focused on when the two groups of students (the sighted and the visually impaired) are taught in the same classroom where they share same facilities both in the classroom and their student houses of residence. The research strategy that underpins the study is the qualitative methodology based on interpretivist epistemological assumptions. This was deemed appropriate because the study seeks to understand the social world through the lenses of the participants by examining and interpreting it (Bryman, 2008) since reality lies with the people and the sociology of knowledge must first of all concern itself with what people perceive as reality in their everyday lives (Berger & Luckmann, 1967). In addition the study engaged in an ontological position of constructionism which emphasizes that social phenomena and realities are produced and achieved through a constant state of interaction and revision which is an on-going process. The study tried to understand and explain how the visually impaired students are included in secondary education through interaction with the research participants and the application of qualitative methods such as observations and interviews which aimed at triangulation. The findings are analysed employing mixed approach of interpretation and narrative analysis through close examination and constructing of themes as well as patterns used to describe and explain the phenomena studied (Gall, Gall, & Borg, 2009). Findings from the study confirmed that educational materials for the visually impaired were either not available or are in short supply in the school as a result both the students and the school are left v struggling with the few materials they have to give true inclusive education to the visually impaired students. I argue that inclusive education is not just the integration of persons with special educational needs in the mainstream schools for them to be taught alongside the regular students, but requires that they be provided sufficient materials and support in order to remove the barriers militating against their full inclusion (Jonhsen & Skjørten; Terzi, 2010). The study underscores the need as captured in the “difference principle” (Rawls, 1999, p. 72) to spend more resources on the least advantaged in the society that is the visually impaired students, in order to balance the scale which always favours the advantaged in the society. In view of this, disparities in the provision of educational materials as discovered by the study between the sighted and the visually impaired students in the school can only be warranted under the precepts of justice given that education has the capability of enhancing the future chances of the individual (Rawls, 1999; Sen, 2009; Terzi, 2010). The study further points to the need for sighted students to relate to and assist the visually impaired students, not only in the classroom, but also in other spheres of school life since people around the individual have a role to play (Vygotsky, 1978) and thus sensitization through education on regular basis could be used to achieve this. Finally, the study calls on future researchers to consider looking into ways that teachers could be prepared adequately with skills and information through workshops and in-service training for inclusive education programmes as well as policy directions and political will towards inclusive education.
Master i flerkulturell og internasjonal utdanning