His passion for teaching and show of compassion for the most vulnerable in society, coupled with his desire for inclusive education know no bounds.
These values propelled him to the highest level in his professional career, subsequently earning him a place as one of the Best 50 Teachers in the world.
That is the story of Mr Robert Gbari Gariba, the 46-year-old Special Needs Education specialist, who has the ability to identify pupils/students with special needs and manage them efficiently and effectively, to give them hope.
With the ability to manage children with Specific Learning Difficulties (SPLDs) and ability to develop individual educational plan (IEP) for special needs students at all levels, Mr Gariba’s nomination as the Overall Best Teacher at the Primary level and subsequently earning a place as one of the Best 50 Teachers in the world, came as no surprise to those who knew him and followed his exploits.
Little wonder then that at the 2018 Ghana Teacher Prize he was adjudged Ghana’s Best Teacher at the Primary level.
His quest for inclusive education in Ghana motivated him to further his education at the University of Education, Winneba, six years after his Cert ‘A’ 3-Year Post Secondary School Education at the Tumu Teacher Training College.
Mr Robert Gbari Gariba attending to one of his students
At Winneba, he veered into special education, graduating with Bachelors in Education (BED) Special Education for the Visually Impaired (EVI) and Social Studies in 2007, after which he was posted by the Ghana Education Service (GES) as a Special Education Resource Teacher attached to the Richard Akwei Memorial School in Accra.
He has since touched the lives of many children with special needs, who hitherto did not have hope of ever gaining formal education. His hard work paid off when in November 2018, he was promoted as the Ag Unit Head, EVI, at the Special Education Division of the Ghana Education Service (GES).
The rousing welcome he received from his students upon his return after receiving the Ghana Teacher Prize was a testimony to the general acceptance of his competence.
For lack of special care, there are hundreds of children out of school because they are children with SPLDs, but thanks to Mr Gariba’s extraordinary exemplary leadership and innovative skills to reach out to children with special needs. That is what is making the difference and bringing smiles to children with learning needs and helping them to realise their potentials.
With his innovative skills, “I challenge myself by supporting such children with special needs to be successful at the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), a feat that was until then seen as unachievable,” Mr Gariba said.
Mr Gariba has held an in-service training for teachers to be able to identify and accept children as they are and provide them with the needed support to learn. He has taught them to apply appropriate inclusive methodologies to improve children’s cognitive and aesthetic abilities.
“Robert, I join all teachers in Ghana to salute you for your leadership in showing the way--- that caring and showing love for children is rewarding. All parents and children from your school salute you. We are proud of you,” the Executive Secretary of the National Teaching Council (NTC), Dr (Mrs) Evelyn Owusu Oduro, told Mr Gariba at a reception to celebrate his achievements.
For the Minister of Education, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Mr Gariba is already the winner of the Global Teacher Prize to be announced this month in Dubai in the United Emirates, explaining that Mr Gariba was already doing what winners of the prize engaged in, because out of his meagre salary he supported such children.
The Vakey Foundation, the organisers of the Global Teacher Prize, believes that the story of Mr Gariba is a unique one that needed to be shared with the international community for others to learn from best practice.
A native of Sabuli in the Jirapa District in the Upper West Region, Mr Gariba is married to Mrs Jennifer Nwinesing Gariba and they are blessed with five children: Georgina, Judith, Salomey, Precious and Bright.
When Mr Gariba is not in school, he spends his time reading and listening to music.
As Mr Gariba leaves for Dubai, he appeals to government “to provide communities with vocational training centres throughout the country to cater for the needs of students with special needs and disabilities to enable them to contribute to their quota to national development.”
While asking for prayers from Ghanaians, Mr Gariba said, “I am grateful to God for bringing me this far, my family for the support and understanding, the GES for giving me the opportunity to share what I have, the NTC for fishing me out of my small corner to the limelight and the Ministry of Education for the encouragement and leadership shown to me.”