KATIMA MULILO – There is widespread disregard for children living with disabilities in the Zambezi Region where barriers in school settings such as inaccessible buildings and lack of specially trained teachers, often puts disabled children at a disadvantage. Despite the Ministry of Education’s policy on inclusive education, the Zambezi Region does not have a single government special school for disabled learners. This has led to a few charity organisations that cater for this purpose overburdened and financially drained as they solely depend on donors to sustain themselves. In its regional profile released in 2011, the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) revealed the Zambezi Region has close to 4 000 people living with disabilities but this figure could be higher, given an increase in the population growth and those not registered. The majority of those disabled are found in remote areas where they are further subjected to poor care, negative community perceptions and are completely cut off from the mainstream society and from mainstream services. At one of its meetings with Zambezi Chief Regional Officer, Regina Ndopu-Lubinda, the Mainstream Foundation, one of four charity organisations that started its operations in 2008 catering for more than 60 children living with disabilities, bemoaned a myriad of challenges faced by people living with disabilities. The director of the centre, Sylvia Chidunka told New Era even though the charity organisation was sold land by the Katima Town Council, temporal structures put up are not conducive. “As you can see our environment is not conducive. We are afraid when the rain season starts everything here might be destroyed. We call upon good Samaritans and donors to help us so that we build a permanent structure. We are looking at raising over N$800 000 for that to happen,” implored Chidunka. The centre is currently supported by the Finnish Embassy, which just wrapped up its donor activities with the charity organisation. She further noted the region lacks specially trained teachers who can address the needs of disabled children. “We need teachers that are be able to cater for the needs of these children. We are also struggling in terms of facilities for these children. Currently we don’t even have a focal person in this region through whom we can channel our concerns,” complained Chidunka. She noted that people with disabilities often face discrimination in almost all spheres of life adding that concerted efforts were vital. “Just look at organisations here. How many disabled people do you find in offices? Some of the children are even denied the right to register as disabled people at the hospital. We want our children to be able to know their rights as citizens. We are often excluded from decision making,” further stated Chidunka. However, according to information obtained from Katima Mulilo Hospital, the type of disability determines registration for grants after undergoing assessment. “We don’t want to stigmatise people by creating a group of disabled people. What we are saying is if one’s mental and physical capacity is ok and they only have a small impairment and they can do everything for themselves without requiring help, why should they be registered for grants? We look at people that can’t cater for themselves because of the disability they have,” said a source. On the other hand Ndopu-Lubinda affirmed government’s commitment towards addressing the plight of disabled people. “There’s commitment from government and us as the regional council. There’s a special preference even in the Labour Act for people with disabilities to be employed but we should make sure that people can at least read and write. The number of disabled children in the region warrants the establishment of a school and we are going to have that as a matter of urgency,” stated Ndopu-Lubinda. She also appealed to good Samaritans to meet government halfway further and she noted that it was the responsibility of parents with disabled children to have them registered for grants and enrolled in schools, particularly in remote areas where the trend is most prevalent. During the meeting it also became evident that parents, particularly fathers, tend to neglect their children because of their disabilities. The elderly have also become easy targets for parents who send their disabled children to their grandmothers, who at their advanced age cannot offer the special care needed by these children. Disabilities that are common in the Zambezi include blindness, deafness, dumbness, speech and physical impairment of lower and upper limbs, mental disability, albinism and autism. According to the United Nations people living with disabilities make up 10 percent of the world’s population. A UN convention of the rights for persons with disabilities was adopted in 2006. It advocates for accessibility, rehabilitation, employment, education, health and non-discrimination. On the national front, a national policy on disability of 1997 in principle paves a way for persons with disabilities to be included at all levels of the Namibian society but its implementation has been lacklustre.
2014-10-14 07:23:42 3 years ago