managed by Anna L. (Communication)
«Mon école s’appelle Envol» --
the «Institut Médico-Psycho-Pédagogique l’ENVOL» / “Medicinal-Psychologic-Pedagogic Institute l’ENVOL“
The «Institut Médico-Psycho-Pédagogique (I.M.P.P.) l’Envol» is a special education center for children and youth with mental handicaps in Togo (West Africa). It principally aims to improve the children’s living conditions by providing them with an education and guidance in practices of daily life that align their needs. Meanwhile there exist ten centers across the country.
The idea of founding a special education institution for children and youth with a mental handicap came into being in 1986, when parents of affected children joined forces to create their society called «Association pour la Promotion de l’Enfant Handicapé Mental» (“Association for the Aid of Children with a Mental Handicap”). The same year already, the first «Institut Médico-Psycho-Pédagogique l’Envol» was opened in Lomé, which since then receives children with light, moderate and severe mental disabilities as well as further associated handicaps. The children, who have to be aged between 4 and 18 in order to be admitted to the center, are divided into groups according to their levels of mental development. Since its establishment the «I.M.P.P. l’Envol» was supported by the German „Caritas” as well as the German and Togolese governments. In 2007 the „Caritas” started to continuously reduce aid money and completely cut payments in 2010, since contractually stipulated obligations were not adhered to by the Togolese government. For this reason all facilities in the country were threatened with closure, but still the centers tried to ensure their survival by raising money independently and on a local level. In January 2012, after parents of affected children had constantly been protesting, the Togolese government eventually agreed to cover the personnel costs of the centers’ employees.
Envol in Kpalimé
The institute in Kpalimé was established in 1993. Presently 40 children are guided independently of their economic setting by five educators. The town of Kpalimé is situated 120 km (75 miles) northwest of Togo’s capital, Lomé, in a wooded, hilly landscape that, due to its relatively cool climate and numerous natural sights, attracts many tourists.
In three groups of different levels of development the children attend classes in the subjects of French, mathematics, autonomy, psychomotricity, physical education, art, social education and history/geography. The hands-on organization and practical orientation of lessons thereby help to facilitate the learning process. Additionally children receive logopedic and physiotherapeutic treatments if required. The young people of group four eventually are to be prepared for their professional integration and are able to choose an apprenticeship according to their respective talents. Currently the institute’s vocational branch in Kpalimé offers the sectors of stock farming, gardening and kitchen work.
Envol and its necessity
The situation for a child with a mental handicap in Togo continues to be problematic. For the most part, families with many children have to choose the children they can send to school, due to high school fees. Thereby the decision is made according to economic measures. For that matter a child with a mental handicap frequently is excluded in the first place, also since the state government does not yet provide adequate infrastructure to educate people with a mental handicap.
A child with a mental handicap is unwanted in Togolese society not only because of the respective families’ impairment of social standing, but also due to the habit to consider people with a (mental) handicap as punished by God or possessed with evil spirits. Owing to prejudices like these and missing information about underlying causes and diseases, people with a handicap are often exposed to severe social stigma by their environment. That again frequently leads to discriminatory acts or even cases of exploitation and sexual abuse. Social integration and participation are therefore made considerably difficult.
In this context it is of particular importance that the «I.M.P.P. l’Envol» is able to allow children with a mental handicap for having an equal educational opportunity and hence a safe place in society. To date, satisfactory results were achieved concerning the number of children participating in the special education center’s program. While at times of the centers’ openings 1986 in Lomé and 1993 in Kpalimé many families had doubts regarding the project, especially in the past years «Envol» registered big increases in children attending its programs.