19.03.2020 Letter

A "ThisAbility" Open Letter To President Akufo-Addo

By Citizen Benjamin Nii-Lartey Ayiku
LISTEN MAR 19, 2020

Dear Mr. President.
I send you warm greetings from Adonai Studios, Ghana.

Mr. President, I wish to bring a matter to your attention but first, kindly permit me to touch on something I heard in the news last week.

I heard that during this year's Independence Day Celebration in Kumasi, you presented a wheelchair and an amount of GHC1,000 to a young man with a disability from one of the senior high schools in the country. My understanding is that, the donation was actually from one Mr. Katekyie, a Ghanaian based in the US. And the MC of the occasion made no mistake by giving you full credit for your Free Senior High School policy, without which the young man couldn't have had access to senior high school education, given the family background.

I also read how some people described the gesture as a political move to court some admiration from the public, especially the disability community.

Well, even though I do not disagree with them entirely, I can't fault you either; because the last time I checked, you were still a politician and not a teacher to expect his reward in heaven.

With the greatest of respect, Mr. Present, I think the young man and, in fact, the entire disability community deserves more than a one-time donation, and here's is my reason:

The blind young man in the picture below is King Faisal Yakubu Azangbego, from Bawku.

He is 23 years old and a former student of the Akropong School for the Blind and Wa Senior High School.

King Faisal's only dream is to become a SPORTS JOURNALIST. I repeat: He wants to be a sports journalist. With the greatest of respect again, I hope you don't ask how he hopes to achieve that if he can't see; because that would be an insult to the capabilities, in fact, the intelligence of persons with disability.

Mr. President, the sad situation is that, the state's biggest Journalism institution, Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), has failed to admit King Faisal because the institution does not have what it takes to train a blind person in journalism. In the bid of the family to ensure that their son attains his aspiration in life, he was recently flown to South Africa, where he is pursuing the course.

King Faisal is only fortunate that his family could afford to take him outside Ghana. But how about the many children with disability from poor or not-so-well-to-do homes?

King Faisal's situation, Mr. President, should present to you an idea of how many children with disability are having their dreams and passions aborted on a daily basis due to lack of friendly environment and resources.

Mr. President, beautiful as the 6th March spectacle may be, in my opinion, it only highlighted on a big stage, the failure of all the politicians who have ruled us over the years. Successive Governments have failed to put in place all the support systems that will ensure that persons with disability are independent and comfortable in every aspect of life. They instead, take advantage of the limitations that make persons with disability appear to be beggars and want us to applaud them for gestures that do not come anywhere close to things that will make persons with disability live a dignified life; which is their fundamental human rights.

Till today, Mr. President, buildings in the country, including buildings of state institutions and even the ministries are still not disability friendly.

Essential service providers like health workers are still sign language illiterates.

We are still struggling to have an inclusive education system that accommodates both children with, and those without disabilities in same schools.

Ghana still doesn't have any policy that creates opportunities for decent work and employment for persons with disability. And the limitations are endless.

Mr. President, if the GIJ and all training institutions could be well resourced, you will be amazed by the display of talents and the number of professionals with a disability we will be having in all sectors.

The fact that King Faisal could be returning from a country here in Africa in a few year's time as a trained sports Journalist, means that it is nothing impossible after all.

Mr. President, it can be done if we commit to it.
As I conclude my letter, I wish to reiterate that persons with disabilities deserve more than free SHS. The disability community deserves more than once-in-a-while donations. Persons with disabilities deserve to live in dignity as human beings they are.

I wish to also add my little voice to the call for Government to:

Expedite action on the review of the disability act (715) and come out with a legislative instrument to effectively operationalize the law.

Ratify the African Disability Protocol adopted by the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR).

Ensure that women with disabilities are significantly included in the Affirmative Action Bill to promote their political participation.

Adopt employment equity policy for persons with disabilities in order to create opportunities for decent work and employment as stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

I only hope that by chance, you get to see my letter, and should you be interested in King Faisal's story, I will be more than willing to assist you with information about him and his family.

Yours faithfully,
Citizen Benjamin Nii-Lartey Ayiku
(Africa Disability Journalist of the year, 2019,
and director of "THISABILITY", a disability advocacy project )

Email: [email protected]

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