Myths surrounding children with special needs to end

By Ketra Kalunga

Mulumbo Early Childhood Care and Development (MECED) is making strides in providing formal education to children with special needs.

The institution has this year enrolled about 20 children with special needs in Kabwe’s Makululu and Nakoli Townships.

And government through the Ministry of Education, working with the office of the Kabwe District Education Board Secretary (DEBS), has assigned two special education teachers to Mukululu and Nakoli centres.

The institution has associate community based centres that provide early childhood care to children aged between 3 and 8 years.

Makululu and Nakoli Townships of Kabwe are among the communities that are benefiting from the services provided , thanks to a survey carried out by Kabwe DEBS office in partnership with Mulumbo early childhood care and development.

The survey revealed that they are about 50 children with disabilities in Makululu and 20 in Nakoli townships that have been deprived of their right to education because of being hidden in homes by their parents.

DEBS Education Standard Officer for Special Education, Ezzily Mwaanga, says the survey revealed that they are more than 70 children with disabilities in the two communities that have missed out on the opportunity to acquire education mainly because they have been hidden by their parents.

Ms Mwaanga cited myths and misconceptions society had about disability especially in Africa as some of the reasons why parents of children with disabilities are kept hidden in homes.

True to this fact many people believe that disability is caused by super natural forces, cursed and as punishment for wrong doing either by the parents or ancestor.

The resultant stigma leaves disabled people vulnerable to neglect, stigma and even abuse from the community hence the reason why many children are kept locked up at home often for their own safety.

For Mulumbo Early Childhood Care and Development and in line with Government’s policy on formal education for children with special needs, a child with special needs is not different from the rest.

The institution holds strong, the belief that a children with special needs have the ability to grow into responsible citizens.

It also believes that once given an opportunity to learn, children with special needs can be useful in society and be self-reliant instead of totally depending on their parents for the rest of their lives.

To prove the above statement, Mulumbo Foundation in partnership with the Kabwe DEBS office last year screened 70 children with special needs from Makululu and Nakoli after a survey at the DEBS office last year for possible enrollment in school this year.

The children were then assessed at Kabwe General Hospital so that they could be enrolled in the special unity classes according to their disability at the two Mulumbo centres in Makululu and Nakoli Townships.

At the end of the assessment, 20 children who were not severely affected with disability were listed for enrollment in schools at the two centres this year and have since reported for classes.

DEBS Assessment Officer, Rawlings Ng’ambi   said among the children that were assessed at Kabwe General Hospital, one case was referred to Kitwe for eye operation while those with eye ailments had medication prescribed for them.

Mr. Ng’ambi who is also a special education teacher is thankful that the assessment of all children was done and a report was produced facilitating for the opening of two special unity centres in the respective Townships.

And Mulumbo Early Childhood Care and Development coordinator, Davis Mwape, is appealing to parents of children with special needs to come out in the open so that their children could have the opportunity of be enrolled in school.

And this month, Mulumbo with support from its partner, Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISE) donated nine wheelchairs to pupils with disabilities in a special class unit at a cost of K24, 000 to ease their mobility.

Handing over the donation, foundation Board Secretary, Isabel Hamaboyu, said children with special needed should be given a right to education because they are human beings like any other person.

Ms Hamaboyu said even as the country focuses on inclusiveness in education, children with special needs, those with disabilities in particular should be mobile hence the donation.

“As the organization through our partners, Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa bought the wheelchairs to give to children with disabilities in the special unit class so that they can be mobile even as we talk of inclusiveness in education,” said Ms Hamaboyu.

Ms Hamaboyu was optimistic that the gesture would move parents and guardians that are hiding children with disabilities in their homes to come out so that they too could be helped.

Receiving the donation, one of the parents, Angela Mukuka commended MECCD for the gesture saying it would go a long way in making movements easy for them and the children.

And Disacare Wheelchair Centre Director, Kenneth Mubuyaeta, advised parents and guardians to use the wheelchairs for the wellbeing of their children.

Government has since formulated a policy on formal education of children with special needs. And in line with the policy, it has opened early child education and disability in government schools.

It had done so realizing that children with special needs, once given an opportunity to learn, could be useful in society and be self-reliant.

Mulumbo foundation is supplementing government efforts in giving an equal opportunity to all children to acquiring quality education bearing in mind that they are the leaders of tomorrow.

The onus is on parents or guardians of children with disabilities to shun the myths about disability and bring their children in the open so that they too can have the chance to be in school and acquire the much needed education for the betterment of their future.

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