Children with disabilities denied education

Young people living with disabilities are concerned about the lack of facilities and resources needed to deal with their multifaceted educational and social concerns.

Sukeluhle Mhlanga
Sukeluhle Mhlanga

Many children with varying forms of disability do not attend school because their parents cannot afford the high tuition fees at King George V1, the only specialised school in the whole of Matabeleland provinces which serves children with physical disabilities. Sukeluhle Mhlanga, 23, who has cerebral palsy, a condition associated with movement disorders, said that while at Mtshade primary school in Njube in 1996 she suffered discrimination.

Facilities at the school and the teachers’ attitudes were not of a high standard. “I dropped out of King George V1 while doing grade three because my parents could not afford the high school fees,” said Mhlanga.

Despite the challenges she encountered at school, she managed to excel in her studies, much to the surprise of everyone, and is presently studying marketing management at the Bulawayo Polytechnic. She is now urging government to introduce policies that will compel all schools to put in place the necessary facilities and human resources to deal with the many educational and social concerns for children with disabilities.

Doing nothing

“It pains me to see disabled children and youths sitting at home doing nothing because none of the schools in the city is disability-friendly. Disability is not a curse. These children deserve an opportunity to learn,” she said.

Another disabled youth, Doreen Phiri, said the non-availability of disabled friendly schools in the country had condemned physical challenged children to increased vulnerability to social ills such as poverty, disease, abuse, isolation and social exclusion.

“People with disabilities in this country are treated like second-class citizens. The government should prioritize the main-streaming of disability issues in all our public institutions. This is the only way to address the inordinately high risk of exposure to violence, abuse, neglect and abandonment,” said Phiri.

Zimbabwe ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of the Child last year. However despite being one of the first African countries to introduce legislation to protect the rights of people living with disabilities, disability issues are not a priority.

Scores of children with disabilities continue to be denied equal access to education by local schools. According to the National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped, over 52% of children with disabilities have no access to primary education.

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