By Kofi Ampeah-Woode, Akropong, Akuapem
When you have revived from your times of testing, strengthen and establish your weak ones to give them a fresh start – as the Scripture says, so obeyed the Eastern Naval Command (ENC) of the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF), as they climbed the Akuapem Mountains to fraternize with pupils and students of the Akropong School of the Blind, Akropong Akuapem, in the Eastern Region of Ghana.
The Command, led by its Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Commodore (Cdre) James Osei Kontoh, initiated the social gesture early January 2019, when the Base made presentations to the needy at Manhean, Tema, as part of activities in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee celebration, since the formation of the Ghana Navy, in July 29, 1959.
ENC, which has christened its social outreach project “let the blind feel you”, says they plan to have another kind in July/August of 2019, at the climax of the Navy@60 celebrations “… and so today, we decided to move down from our Base to come up here and associate with the needy and the less privileged, to let them know that we care for and love them”, Cdre Kontoh, surmised.
Not only did ENC join hands with the Pentecost International Worship Center (PIWC), Church of Pentecost, Kokomlemle, Accra, to visit the visually impaired folks on Saturday, March 30, 2019, but the Command also made donations which entailed the following; packs of biscuits, evaporated milk, milo, soft drinks, sanitary pads, toilet rolls, soap, tomatoes puree, gallons of cooking oil, para zone and bags of rice, sugar and washing powder.
Additionally, the Command and the church combined to make a cash donation of four thousand Cedis (GHS4,000), which they labelled as seed money to be used to support the medical expenses of the children’s medical expenses.
The FOC also revealed that some health professionals amongst the Navy, will be providing various kinds of medical support and that when this seed money is exhausted, the Command will find a means of revamping the account.
FOC Cdre Kontoh concluded, “We observed, upon arrival that, there is more to be done here, so I would entreat individuals and corporate institutions which have the wherewithal, to also stretch forth and offer something to help these less privileged.”
A high point of the day’s event was when the assembly of about four hundred visually impaired school children loudly but emotionally sung the popular folklore tune “Ma oman yi ho nhia wo, Ghana man ye woara wo dze” as the military “Sea Lords” stood and listened.
The headmaster of the school, Simon Adedemeh, in an interview, revealed that the school operates from Kindergarten 1 and 2, Basic 1 to 6, Junior High School (JHS) 1 to 3, while tuition covers the same curriculum as any other in the country, and that the school also writes the same exams like its sighted counterparts nationwide.
From the JHS, there are secondary schools that uptake the students, namely Okuapeman, Mawuli, Adidome, Wenchi and Wa Senior High Secondary Schools, thence they gravitate into higher institutions of their choice and qualification.
The mode of learning which is called the braille and all the materials that the children learn with are very expensive and imported into the country, with an example being the machine they use in writing – which is called the Perkins Brailler – with one costing as much as GHS 7,000, thus one can only imagine how many parents can afford this for their misfortuned wards?
Apart from the classroom work, there is also a vocational department, which has the craft unit (where students are taught how to use assorted materials to weave baskets, doormats, making beads, powder and ovens, to ensure that they acquire employable skills, which would be useful upon leaving the school, so that with the National Vocational Training Institute (NVTI) Certificate, they can go out to make a living.
Then there is the music unit, where students are taught to master musical instruments and compose their own songs, poetry etc. with which they can make a living.
The school is an institution sponsored fully by government, but is not a HOME, thus they run the same academic terms just like any other, although they do not pay any feeding fees, as the state also pays all the workers’ salaries and for all the user facilities.
All pupils and students are admitted into the boarding house, with some of the pupils as young as 4 years old, but there are surrogate or house mothers to take care of them, so that when it is time for classes, the teachers take over the duty of both teaching and caring for the feeble.
Mr Adedemeh concluded that “We all know that the government cannot do it all, so usually, faith-based institutions, public spirited individuals, corporate institutions and NGOs come to support in the form of donations, hence it would be in good order if more entities come to help us by all means.”