By JINA AMBA
ANNA Thomas has often been referred to by those who know her well as the “walkabout teacher”.
The reason is that she goes around visiting people mainly children living with disabilities at their homes because they cannot to go to school.
“Many say I am a walkabout teacher because I take formal education to students with special needs who can’t make it to school and stay at home.”
The 42-year-old mother-of-five is from Tubiri village in Mendi, Southern Highlands. She is separated from her husband and looks after the children herself.
Anna graduated from Our Lady of Scared Heart Kabaleo Teacher College in East New Britain in 1997 as a teacher.
Half of her teaching career has been with students living with disabilities. She also assists teachers in schools in the National Capital District.
Anna is one of those teachers passionate about ensuring that children living with disabilities receive the same education as others.
If there is a deaf student in a class of 65, Anna will use sign language especially for that student.
“While teaching in mainstream schools for 10 years, I saw the need to pay extra and special attention on this special group of children. Since I had learnt in college the basics on how to deal with the marginalised and vulnerable children, I decided to assist them get the same education as other children.”
Anna understood the hard work but did not hesitate.
“Working with people with disabilities and children with disabilities is not easy. It needs time, commitment, and patience. It requires a person with a good humble heart.”
Anna was trained by sign language experts from Fiji and Australia. Today she also helps out on NBC TV in presenting news.
She is a resource officer with Callan Service and focusing on children living with disabilities in Port Moresby.
“I do home visits to students at their homes to provide formal education. This is a great challenge for me as female teacher in terms of transport and security.”
“ Working with people with disabilities and children with disabilities is not easy. It needs time, commitment, and patience. It requires a person with a good humble heart.”
She assists students enroll at elementary, primary and secondary schools in Port Moresby.
She helped one of her students Hendry Kolly sit for the Grade 10 national examination at Gerehu Secondary School a few weeks ago.
“I have to be in the classroom to interpret in sign language the subject being taught.”
Anna is grateful for the support of parents, resource officers, teachers and sign language interpreters who, like her, have been doing their best to help students living with disabilities.
She thanks the education and the community development departments for the importance placed on inclusive education for people and children with disabilities.
The Callan Services and other special education resource centers have also been reaching out to this special group of people in remote parts of the country.
Anna loves to see children living with disabilities compete with others on a level playing ground.
Her motto is: Don’t look at their disability, but look at their ability.
“My job is a call from my heart. I am always proud to see my students achieve what is required of them.”