While the 'cursed' children spend most of their day locked away, those children fortunate enough to have supportive and informed families, often encounter numerous prejudicial barriers within their own communities as well as public institutions like schools and hospitals.
“My nine-year-old child who was born with a physical disability uses a wheelchair. However, the toilet facilities at his school are not wheelchair friendly and so he has to come home whenever he needs to use the toilet. At my home, I have constructed a suitable toilet for him,” said James Moyo, whose disabled son is a pupil at Zinyangeni primary school in Nkayi.
Various stakeholders, including the Local Rehabilitation Workshop (Lorewo), government and World Vision recently launched a programme to improve disability awareness and upgrade facilities. In Matabeleland province, the programme is already underway in the Nkayi and Insiza districts.
“We launched this programme after realising that almost all schools in rural areas do not have disability friendly toilet facilities. School buildings, including classrooms, do not have wheelchair ramps. To a normal person this might be insignificant, but they are absolutely critical and essentially important to people with disabilities,” said Method Ndlovu, the Area Development Programmes manager for Nkayi.
Ndlovu advised this reporter that a recent awareness disability assessment in Nkayi’s five wards revealed that, more than 25 children with disabilities do not attend school for various reasons.
“We have formed a disability assessment committee made up of school authorities, psychologists, community child protection activists and the rehabilitation unit at Nkayi hospital. This committee compels parents and relatives of disabled children to bring these children to community centres where individual needs can be accessed. So far the community has done a commendable job in raising disability awareness and encouraging parents and relatives to send their children to school,” said Ndlovu.
A teacher at Sesemba primary school, Bongani Nyathi, said the project had brought positive change as more children with disabilities were now able to attend schools.
“Now that we have the necessary facilities, we are hoping to enrol more students with disabilities .Under this project, we have also constructed girl-friendly toilets. We hope this will increase the number of girls being child enrolled at schools, “he said.
So far five primary Nkayi schools and several primary schools in Insiza have benefited from the upgrade programme.
Under the programme, some rural schools have also been fitted with commodes, special toilets meant for disabled people who find it difficult to use pit latrines. Portable commode toilets, designed to be placed at the bedside of disabled individuals whose activity is severely limited, have also been distributed to schools by local NGOs.
The commodes are made at Loreto, situated at the National Council of disabled Persons of Zimbabwe (NCDPZ) headquarters in Bulawayo.
“Our products are in demand from various institutions such as government hospitals, nursing homes, schools and disability institutions. The commodes are comfortable, “said Monica Moyo, a worker at Lorewo.
The organisation has distributed more than 88 commodes to various schools in the province so far.
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