Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor and former Finance Minister Nathaniel Barnes on Saturday, October 20, dedicated the first classroom for children with autism (various forms of deformities) in the country.
The school is named “Arthur and Zwannah Autism First Classroom in Liberia,” because Arthur, a Kenyan national and Zwannah, a Liberian and one of Mr. Barnes’ children, suffered similar condition.
The school, is established in the facility of Abundance Grace School in Paynesville, outside Monrovia by a local non-governmental organization, “Straight from the Heart (SFTH).”
The organization is supported by Madam Taylor as part of efforts to address children that are diagnosed with autism. Also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), it refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication.
VP Taylor then acknowledged the dream bearer of the autism classroom, Ms. Agnes Fallah Kamara, founder and executive director of SFTH for such program, which is set up to treat children with such condition.
According to her, some parents of children with such deformities are often ashamed to register their children in schools with their colleagues who also have special needs, while some of the parents do not have the idea that children with such condition supposed to have access to education to contribute to society.
“You can imagine the mindset of parents that sit idle without finding remedy to the condition of children in such situation but, instead of helping, we add to the shame that creates an environment where parents have to hide them or kill them,” Madam Taylor said.
She expressed gratitude to the Mrs. Kamara for your effort to establish such entity in the country for the first time to make children with such deformity become useful to society in the future.
VP Taylor used the occasion to admonish those that will be teaching the children diagnosed of autism be patient with them, because this is something new that requires patience and sacrifice, commitment to encourage parents of many other children out there with such a condition to enroll in the school.
Mr. Barnes, a parent of a child diagnosed with autism (deformed brain), thanked Ms. Kamara for establishing such an institution that has brought relief to many other parents, who have children in such condition.
Although, this initiative may appear small, it is a milestone and turning point for the country that has suffered 14 years of civil wars and two years of Ebola virus disease outbreak (2014/2015).
According to Mr. Barnes, a few months ago, people in his community considered his son Zwannah as being demon-possessed, or his parents have been involved in such demonic acts to render him hopeless in society, “but thank God SFTH is here to turn the story around.”
The SFTH’s founder, Ms. Agnes Fallah Kamara, informed the gathering that she established the school to help children with such conditions to become useful after obtaining some level of education.