The Right to Education is enshrined in the UN Convention and most national Constitutions. As society dictates, some have more rights to it than others, not exactly what Karl Marx had in mind when he spoke of his utopian “classless” society. I am afraid his concept will continue to be but a dream even in the 22nd Century!

Parents with “extra-needs” children always want someone who understands their situation, be it health, nutrition and even education. You want to protect your child from unnecessary negative influence when you are not around, especially since you have worked very hard to ensure your child has self-worth and self-esteem. The most tragic thing anyone can do is to reverse the many years you have invested in this child with just one wrong move. They don’t know what it’s like to nurture someone who is constantly worried about their image and survival. As a result when it’s time for your “jewel” to start their journey on their own anxiety sets in and you wonder how this child will survive those few hours with strangers?! This child has always been under your protective custody, now they have to be released to the concrete jungle! They will soon be prey for “carnivores” and “scavengers”!

Sickle Cell Disease Warriors should always be on alert for stigma and discrimination associated with this condition. Although attitudes are changing, do not be under the illusion that the entire society will be nurturing to your offspring. The obvious thing to do is to identify an institution that practices some of your beliefs and values (easier said than done unfortunately). You may have to spend extra time and resources to identify the appropriate learning environment as far as your child’s well-being is concerned.

I have been through several education systems as a student, teaching staff and non-teaching staff. The sad truth is that some institutions are more humane than others when it comes to parent and student empathy. The services provided are a complete contrast even though the main goal is to impart knowledge. For instance, in the private schools where I have worked, trainers would give extra attention to any child that needed more support than their classmates. This was a rule, every student had to learn skills no matter their weaknesses. It just had to be done, there was no alternative and the professionals had to find some way on this planet to teach this student, be it sports, creative works or basic classwork.

An “extra-needs” child requires extra support if they are going to have the same opportunities available to them as their counterparts. That means the teachers, coaches and caregivers have to go an extra mile for them. This “calling” is not present in all professionals and institutions, finding them can prove to be difficult and expensive. However, it is your child’s interest that must come first in this instance. You must ensure they start being independent as early as possible for their own sake. To do so, they need other people other than yourself, God forbid if anything were to happen to you and they don’t know self-reliance! As a consequence, it’s of utmost importance that you identify these “called” professionals and institutions of learning. Finding them may take some effort but once identified your burden will be eased for the next 12 years in the education system. Personally, I had two completely different experiences in my primary and secondary education.

Primary school was in a public facility. You don’t get “special” treatment since the student-teacher ratio is high. The teachers are overwhelmed by workloads they can’t pay much attention to individual students. They are forced to move the entire class at the same pace. For the student you either get it the first time or you’re doomed if your parents can’t afford extra external tuition. You will only be lucky if you have hands-on parents and older siblings to help you after school. If you have special needs no one really notices or cares except for a very few minority and the headteacher who can’t really be around all the time. You are basically on your own and at the mercy of a few. Unfortunately due to these “impersonal” and “mechanical” interactions between teachers and students, you will often be a victim of rude remarks about your unique medical status and unfair treatment. If you didn’t have a “thick skin” and keen family members you would be emotionally scarred for the longest time.

High school was a completely different experience altogether. I was basically in “heaven” if you please! It was a catholic private school. With devout catholic staff and Sister-Nun as the principal. It was great even though I was as protestant as they get! The higher qualifications of the teaching staff (compared to my primary school teachers) proved to be an asset to the students. If you couldn’t do something the normal way they wouldn’t restrict you to the sidelines courtesy of a “doctor’s note”! Instead they would try to find another way for you to participate inspite of your circumstances (unlike my primary school, if you can’t do it like the rest, get out of the way…). They were very keen on special needs and severe punishment was given to anyone who proved to be discriminatory in any shape or form. As a result, the students, teachers and other staff were civil with each other and went an extra mile to understand circumstances of the next person.

Clearly you can see the contrast in both institutions and the reasons are self explanatory. Plus, a “doctor’s note” is not always the best way to overcome obstacles!

The options are many, you just have to pick the right one for warriors!