The Sabon Layi School was founded in 1954 to provide education at the leprosy centre in Mangu (founded in 1950). People who suffered from leprosy were excluded from society and treated and cared for in separate colonies. Mr. Joel Gowon, a former patient, founded the school for the children suffering from leprosy. A few years later he was joined by Mr. Filibbus, who himself was receiving treatment in Mangu.
In 1974 Cees & Neeltje Spronk arrived in Mangu and worked for the Netherlands Leprosy Relief Association for COCIN (Church Of Christ in Nigeria). Treatment of leprosy was drastically changing at this point. Better medicine was becoming available and patients were no longer excluded from society. And so Mangu centre was merged into general healthcare. The hospital was established as COCIN Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre, Church of Christ in Nigeria gaining responsibility from SUM, the British mission for the centre.
In time the school has been attended by children suffering from disabilities, such as polio, and also children with congenital disabilities. Children of hospital employees also attend the school. Children with physical disabilities are schooled and medically treated with operations, physiotherapy and provided with medical supplies like braces, crutches and wheelchairs, enabling patients to become self-sufficient.
Since 2010 the number of students with physical disabilities has been in decline. This can be explained by changes to the Nigerian school system. These students are now able to attend regular education in a town or village closer to home in Nigeria.
Children with mental disorders on the contrary are not entered into regular education. Leading to an increase in the number of these children in attendance at the Sabon Layi School. Mr. Bitrus Bangs, the headmaster of the school, has concerned himself with these childrens’ fate. As they are often hidden away out of embarrassment and anxiousness. He meets with the parents to get their permission to allow the children to attend school. Other children with special needs might not be hidden away, but nevertheless are unable to go to school in the village they live in. They too attend Sabon Layi to receive education.
Nowadays three different groups of children attend the school. Children with mental and/or physical disabilities and children with no disabilities. And that is quite a unique combination. The children with mental disorders love being part of the pack and finding their way around the school system. They work equally as hard as their able-bodied classmates. And they complete many an exercise book scribbling ‘words and doing maths’. It is quite touching to see them take pride in their work.
New generations are learning that people with mental disabilities and disorders offer availd contribution to daily life in Nigeria. Our method is proving an effective way of countering the stigma.
Jennifer Niemeijer, anaesthetist Rob Niemeijer’s wife, is a specialist in mental healthcare and she employed a special needs teacher, trained to give specialist attention to these children.
In 2014 the school has found itself in financial problems, caused by government cuts in salaries. The hospital since then covered the salaries. But due to sources running out, has had to terminate the financial help.
At the end of 2017 the school and the hospital have parted ways. The hospital continues to pay for the non-teaching staff of the boarding school, but has terminated paying for the teaching staff. They have committed themselves to continue to work for the school with dedication. As a mean of income, the hospital has started growing corn to pay for maintenance. And they are planning to start a goat farm breeding goats.
Since 2007 the Faridpur Foundation supplied the funding of:
- Maintenance and repairs of the buildings
- Several new buildings, toilets, corridors between buildings
- Playground equipment and a lawnmower for the football grounds
- New teaching material
- Refurbished laptops from the Netherlands
- New beds and mattresses for the Boarding school
- Solar panels and batteries
The Faridpur Foundation offers a substantial contribution to the Sabon Layi School and will remain to do so. We will maintain a general contribution and raise funds to start the goat farm, free the entry road to the school, maintain the solar panel system and batteries etc.