By Takunda Mandura
Zimbabwe is one of the few countries on the African continent that is judged to have the highest literacy rate.
The country’s constitution which was adopted in 2013 guarantees every child the right to education, but the situation is not so for some children especially those with disabilities.
There are a few specialized schools that can accommodate children with disabilities in Zimbabwe, even though the Education Act compels schools to have special facilities to cater for the disabled learners.
In most public educational institutions, these facilities are hardly available making it difficult for learners to attend school.
Sign of Hope Trust director Samantha Sibanda says despite the unavailability of the required facilities and devices, teachers are also not trained to handle learners with disabilities.
“Teachers are not fully trained to have children with disabilities being part of their classes and so the special schools have become the only safe spaces for them. There is a lot that still needs to be done in the main schools for them to accommodate children with disabilities,” She said.
According to Sibanda, the government which is supposed to avail the resources has been the major let down and is always giving excuses every other time.
She said in the absence of government support, communities must step in and make the schools accessible to disabled children.
“The government which is supposed to give the resources keeps referring to the issue of resources when it comes to laws and clauses that speak to issues of.
“It is now left for us the communities to make schools accessible because it’s not only about the infrastructure, but attitude also matters,” she added.
Speaking on the same issue, Deaf Zimbabwe Trust Barbra Nyangairi said learning has become difficult especially for learners with deafness.
“As a country, we have not yet operationalized the Sign Language Syllabus even those Sign Language is in the constitution as one of the official languages.
“The use of Sign Language in our education system is still very much limited our learners with deafness are being taught orally by the people who teach them,” she said.
Recently, the Cabinet approved the National Disability Policy seeks among other things to address the marginalization and discrimination of persons with disabilities in Zimbabwe and to empower them to improve their quality of life.
Various organizations that advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities are on record appealing to the government to avail more resource units especially at the nearest convenient schools and provide more teachers and resources for the units.
Besides the issue of resources, there is a need for deliberate efforts by the government to train more teachers and give them the capacity to handle children with disabilities.
Among things that the Disability Policy will ensure is that facilities such as ramps, for those on wheelchairs and Braille for the visually impaired among other disabled-friendly facilities are found in public places.