Haven for special children appeals for help

Parents with epileptic children have created a drop-in centre to care for around 150 children in the Mabvuku area of Harare.

Susan Tinendi: The fees charged at schools that cater for children with disabilities are unaffordable.
Susan Tinendi: The fees charged at schools that cater for children with disabilities are unaffordable.

The project is run by Mwoyo Munyoro Club, a group of parents, and is open three days a week. As well as the usual pre-school activities, children get special care and three meals a day.

Twice a month, they also receive physiotherapy sessions from the Harare Hospital Centre for Rehabilitation.

“We run the drop-in centre for free, since most epileptic children are marginalised,” said Mwoyo Munyoro’s Anita Takaendesa, who added that lack of fund meant they could not provide the children with everything they needed. Sometimes the project has to be suspended for weeks on end when food isn’t available.

“Mothers take turns to care for children at the centre while we wait for the three trained teachers to commence their duties,” said the project’s treasurer, Sibongile Zengeni.

Most of the children accommodated at the centre have medical problems, such as stunted growth and delayed ability to speak and walk.

The local authority donated land for the project but food shortages continue to threaten the viability of the project.

Parents said they appreciated the drop-in initiative and called on generous individuals and organisations to help the institution in cash and kind.

Takaendesa said: “The drop-in centre is a noble and humble initiative by parents with epileptic children and some well-wishers. The project has changed the circumstances of the beneficiaries.”

She added, however, that parents with epileptic children continued to suffer discrimination, especially from landlords who refused to take the families.

Grace Chimutenga, the parent of a three-year-old not yet able to walk or sit, said: “Though the centre is making a difference to the lives of the children, my son would do better with the aid of a wheelchair.” She hoped a donor would come forward to help her.

Susan Tinendi, mother of a four-year-old who cannot yet talk and has also suffered a stroke, said she was worried about the prohibitive fees charged by schools for the disabled.

“It scares me to think of an institution which would accommodate my child for his primary education, given the prohibitive fees and his special needs,” said Tinendi.

She commended the centre for providing learning and physiotherapy facilities for children with special needs, and said she wished government would introduce accessible schools for children in her son’s situation.

To help Mwoyo Munyoro Club mobilise resources for the children, a local company has donated cash and four sewing machines for an income-generating project. The club is also appealing for help in getting residential land for its members who continue to struggle with intolerant landlords.

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