Siphilisiwe is a thirteen year old girl with hearing impairment. She is a Form 1 student at Malisa Secondary School, Zimbabwe.
Even though she has difficulties in hearing, many people otherwise dismiss her as being deaf. No surprise there, because issues surrounding disability are barely well understood in many of our communities. Lots of misinformation, stigma and discrimination surround people living with disability. Young pupils with disabilities are more likely to be victims of bullying from their peers. Such children also face various forms of exclusion from some community members who fail to understand the nature of disabilities.
Siphilisiwe (left) studying with a frien
“People used to call me isacuthe (the deaf one) and my peers did not want to play with me. I felt unwanted. At school, my performance was bad as I did not get everything that the teacher taught,” Siphilisiwe says.
Life however changed for this young girl when she began using assistive hearing aids, courtesy of Plan International. Her performance in class has since improved notably.
Asked about her hopes and aspirations, she said: “I want to be a nurse. I want to help the less privileged.”
Although many African governments today provide free primary education to children with disabilities, more focus is still needed on the issues affecting such children. The 2010 progress report for the UN Millennium Development Goals notes that despite some countries’ progress towards achieving the goal of universal primary education, children with disabilities represent the majority of those excluded from such free education schemes.
Since 2003, the Kenyan government prioritized Education for All, including free primary education. This led to a significant increase of enrollment rates in public primary schools, including schools with special education facilities.
An Educational Assessment and Resource Center (EARC) in Western Kenya.
However, according to a report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), only 26 000, or 1.7% of the estimated 1.5 million children with disabilities in Kenya, have actual access to some form of education. Meaning that most of the Kenyan children with special needs are not receiving any educational support. There could be various reasons for this, including poverty, lack of appropriate information by parents about the need for their children with disability to attend schools, few special education schools, limited training of teachers and lack of assistive devices like hearing aids and Braille books. Out of 149 districts in Kenya, 72 of them have Education Assessment Resource Centers (EARC’s), which have been established to facilitate the identification, assessment, referrals and placement of children with disabilities.
The 22nd Day of the African Child takes place across Africa on June 16 2012, taking the theme: “The Rights of Children with Disabilities: The Duty to Protect, Respect, Promote and Fulfill”.
Images: Plan International, http://www.conquistaweb.it