Once again, the month of October is here with us. This month is Dyslexia Awareness month and we, the team at Africa Dyslexia Organisation (ADO), wish to bring the attention of the general Ghanaian populace that dyslexia is a common learning disorder of concern, and it is worth the attention of all.
This condition called dyslexia is a learning disability characterised by difficulty in processing, producing and using language. Thus, it is a language-based learning disorder that makes it extremely hard for its sufferers to express their language skills as others easily do.
Some of the most common problems dyslexics experience is the inability to read, write, spell and speak.
In Ghana, it is estimated that about 10-15 percent of the Ghanaian population is suffering from dyslexia. According to a report by Dyslexia Ghana, 4 percent of Ghanaians have severe forms of dyslexia. Sadly, many Ghanaians, including parents and teachers are not aware of this learning condition or disability; hence, are unable to offer any form of support to dyslexics where necessary.
As a result of this, dyslexic children of school-going age are faced with the challenge of not receiving the needed attention and assistance to do well in their learning. These dyslexic children, therefore, often go through emotional and mental health challenges in class as they are labelled by teachers and classmates as dumb and lazy learners.
According to International Dyslexia Association’s Dyslexia Fact Sheet (2008), dyslexia is essentially a disorder of phoneme processing: feasibly in visual and hearing. The condition predisposes dyslexics to see and hear things differently. Dyslexics, therefore, only process information and learn things differently, hence, being dyslexic is not synonymous to being unintelligent.
Dyslexics do not lack intelligence or the desire to learn, they are only differently intelligent and learn differently as well. When dyslexics are taught by teachers using the appropriate learning methods, they will enjoy and experience learning successfully.
There is, therefore, the need for teachers, especially those at the basic levels in our educational system, to receive the needed training to equip and empower them to help pupils who are dyslexic or have other forms of learning disabilities.
Given that over 10 percent of the Ghanaian population has dyslexia, we are calling on the Government of Ghana to make it mandatory for Teacher Training Colleges to incorporate dyslexia training in their curriculum. There is no doubt that this will equip the trainee teachers to be well-educated and empowered to support all students with varying learning needs.
A recent research study by two Ghanaian researchers have revealed that a greater percentage of Ghanaian teachers have average knowledge and awareness on dyslexia, as well as any form of available support services for children with learning difficulties (Abraham, 2014; Akyeampong et al., 2019). The findings of these studies show that Ghanaian teachers need to get proper professional training on learning disorders, especially dyslexia.
When teachers get trained properly, it will go a long way to support dyslexic students while boosting the confidence of teachers in their various classrooms. Every teacher needs to have some basic knowledge and training on how to handle children with various forms of learning disabilities.
In this month of Dyslexia Awareness, we deem it important to let Ghanaians know that there are a group of learners in every class who are unable to read, write or spell because of dyslexia; and these learners deserve some attention too. We cannot have an inclusive educational system where some learners are neglected due to a condition they have no control over. It is only fair that we give each learner a fair chance to advance in their learning, regardless of their condition.
Besides teachers not being adequately educated and knowledgeable on the subject of dyslexia, there is also the challenge of large class sizes, making identification of dyslexic students difficult; hence, a teacher cannot pay particular attention to learners with dyslexia. This also makes it challenging for the teacher to make time to prepare and develop instructions tailored to meet the needs of dyslexic learners.
At the national level, we currently have only one training centre in the country’s capital city, Accra. And it is unfortunate to know that this centre is in a deplorable state, needing some retooling and resourcing. It is about time the Government of Ghana took interest in this, and channelled resources into creating a befitting centre for learners in all sixteen regions of the country. The establishment of such learning centres will help in the screening and identification of students with dyslexia. It will also help in getting such students the needed available support services, so they get to make the most of their learning experiences.
We, at ADO, believe that it is time to set up a task force on special education needs, and one specifically for children with dyslexia, so that they get support when needed. We are, therefore, calling on all stakeholders in the Ghanaian Educational sector to ensure that we get a well-resourced facility for such interventions.
To deal with the issues raised, we are advocating for a mandatory dyslexia training for teachers in Ghana, especially those assigned to learners at the primary and secondary levels of our educational system. Some other interventions we would like to recommend in order to enhance the teaching and learning experience of dyslexic students in our schools are:
- Schools, especially the public schools, should carefully plan and reduce class sizes to enable teachers pay attention to all learners in each class.
- Ghana Education Service should consider revising the Education Curriculum in order to incorporate the needs of learners with learning disabilities.
- The government should invest more into inclusive education, and make it more accessible for all, especially children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia.
- The government should also establish Dyslexia Assessment Centres in all regions in Ghana; and if possible, have screening centres at the district levels as well where students screened are set up with individual learning plans for their personal studies.
We can do more for Ghanaian learners, especially those with learning disabilities such as dyslexia. The Government of Ghana should commit to investing in our learners as we create awareness of dyslexia this month. Teacher training on dyslexia must be made mandatory. It should be a core element of their training. Every learner deserves the best, and our teachers should be in a good place to give them just that. Let’s do more for today’s learners because they are our tomorrow’s leaders!