Mat North children with disabilities struggle to access public education
An underfunded education sector is felt by the isolated and most vulnerable people of North Matabeleland.
Mosi-oa-Tunya, like most public schools in Matabeleland North, does not have facilities to accommodate children with mental and physical problems. The result was that many students either dropped out of school or their parents failed to enroll them even at the early childhood development (ECD) level.
“Schools should symbolize the concept of inclusion,” says Roland Sibanda, principal of Mosi-Oa-Tunya high school. Sibanda was speaking at the Secretary ‘Merit Bell event held recently at the Victoria Falls School, lamenting the government’s failure to invest in infrastructure for learners with disabilities and special needs in her school.
From toilets to classrooms, to sports and even teachers, most schools do not provide any of the above. This is the reason why Mumuni Siatimbula (10) from Binga of Katete village in district 25 under chief Saba had to drop out of school when she had just started her ECD course at Kariyangwe school in 2016. .
According to her parents, Mumuni was born visually impaired but could talk, walk and interact with others in general. “She was forced to drop out of school for only two weeks because as a child with special needs we had to walk her to school, which was over seven kilometers long,” parents explain. “It was a long distance, and even her teacher said she was not trained to teach a blind child, and the school also did not have suitable stationery (braille) for her.”
Mumuni’s goal in bringing her to school was to make her interact with her age mates. “Our intention in bringing her to school was to expose her to other students her age and possibly get her help as we thought her blindness did not mean she was unable to do her schoolwork. and, maybe, to be a better person in the future. “
Siatimbula’s story resonates well with that of a dropout student from Kwesengulube Primary School in Nkayi who was also forced to interrupt her studies in 2017 after failing to get help for her needs. According to her tutor Lawrence Ncube, from the village of Mkhanyiso led by Chief Madliwa, Ethel Mpofu (14), is disabled and cannot hear properly.
“She is an orphan, and our wish is to get her help so that she can join other children even in Bulawayo and be able to enroll in other fields such as athletics because she is a good runner and represents the countries in the disability category, ”Lawrence said. , says a bartender based in South Africa.
“At the moment she is with my grandfather at home, but I try to give her some help through donors so that she can be assisted with hearing aids so that she can, at less, communicate with other peers and family. members.”
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Tumisang Thabela, said the challenges faced by children forced to drop out of school cannot be blamed on the government. She alleges that parents prevent their disabled children from enrolling in school, especially in rural areas.
“In rural areas one problem you will run into is that we have to go and look for them, and in some cases they hide them, but the facilities are available. The major problem is the lack of specialist teachers, especially in rural areas where we don’t have as many because we have a very small number of teachers trained to take care of them, ”she said.
She says her ministry is finalizing an inclusive education policy in addition to providing learning gadgets to several learners with disabilities. “We are saying that no child should be excluded because of their disability or language difference, so the most important thing is to identify where these children are.”
Zimbabwe Teachers Association general secretary Goodwill Taderera says besides poor infrastructure, exorbitant fee structures are also to blame for children with disabilities who do not register. The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe also believes that the country’s education system is highly discriminatory due to government underfunding.
Source: The Citizen Bulletin