WINDHOEK – Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services Juliet Kavetuna says the country has a long way to go in providing a conducive environment for people with Down syndrome.
Kavetuna, who spoke at the second Namibia Down Syndrome Day on Saturday, said: “We should create avenues to integrate people with Down syndrome.”
She added that she would fight for the rights of people living with the condition through legislative and regulatory advocacy.
“My desire and aspiration is to advocate for inclusive education in laws and policies that uphold the rights of individuals with Down syndrome [for them] to receive an appropriate public education in the least restrictive setting, promote principles and practices designed to improve educational outcomes for students with Down syndrome and support the development of high quality post-secondary programmes for students with intellectual disabilities,” said the minister in her keynote address.
Johan Oosthuizen, the Associate Director of PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the sponsors of the event, also spoke at the occasion.
He also emphasised the integration of people with Down syndrome into society. Business people should be part of the solution by employing people with Down syndrome instead of underestimating the capabilities of people with the condition.
“True love is to serve one another and when we think disability, it’s to help integrate people with Down syndrome into society and help them to be part of the world.”
He said the life expectancy of people with Down syndrome is 60 years. “We need to think about how we can help children with Down syndrome to survive and appreciate life,” said Oosthuizen.
“We are proud to be associated with the Down Syndrome Association of Namibia.”
Eline van der Linden, the Chairperson of the Down Syndrome Association of Namibia, said they do hospital visits to “catch” babies with Down syndrome early. Early intervention to people with Down syndrome is key to their development, explained Van der Linden.
She also emphasised in her speech that people with Down syndrome may be different but they are humans with emotions, dreams and aspirations. “We celebrate how the Down Syndrome Association of Namibia (DSAN) continues to grow and is becoming stronger and in a better position to provide a good service to our Down syndrome community,” said Van der Linden.
Recently DSAN opened an office at the Moreson School for students with intellectual challenges and a good number of volunteers are now active in hospital outreach, membership mobilisation and administration, social media and life skills training of people with Down syndrome, among others.
FNB Namibia gave a cheque of N$92,000 to DSAN as part of its ongoing support to the work of the association. Other sponsors of DSAN and the Namibia Down Syndrome Day were PWC Namibia, Koep & Partners, Joston Investments, Anticor, Coca Cola Namibia, Sense of Africa, Howard Holdings, Stampriet Farmers’ Market, Fruit & Veg City Windhoek, Super Spar Windhoek, Hartlief Windhoek, DB Audio, Kickstart Namibia and St George’s School. The Namibia Down Syndrome Day was organised by DSAN.