The Swazi Observer, Swaziland.
Friday, July 28, 2006
OVER 900 visually impaired children of school-going age remain at home because there is only one integrated school with a resource centre for the blind in Swaziland.
The school admits only10 pupils a year. Chairperson of the Federation of Disabled organisations in Swaziland (FODSWA) Joshua Simelane made the observation when making his remarks during the Reading Association of Swaziland's Annual Lecture held at St. Theresa's School Hall on Wednesday.
Simelane said despite that the country gained independence in 1968 there were less than five schools which catered for the education of people living with disabilities.
He said statistics showed that out of the over 30 000 people living with disabilities in Swaziland, slightly over 5 000 had obtained high school education.
"On another note, this clinical statistics categorises the deaf and dumb to be approximately 6 800. Furthermore, the physically disabled as well as slow learners and mentally disabled dominate a large number of persons with disabilities.
"It is for that reason that the organisation of people living with disabilities strongly believe that there is a rapid increase in the number of those who become disabled each year due to accidents, born disabled as well as the hard hitting HIV and AIDS pandemic. But very little is being done to support the education and development of disabled people in Swaziland," said Simelane.
He also observed that there was minimal commitment on the part of government to provide education for persons with disabilities. He said such had always been attached to special schools instead of addressing education models in a holistic approach. Simelane, a visually impaired person who has exceeded prevailing barriers and social norms, has attained a degree in Theological Studies.
He also noted that in spite of the effort and declaration by the United Nations as well as educational models, education for the disabled child, particularly the deaf and visually impaired, remained undeveloped in response to the need.
"The Ministry of Education is playing a minimal role in developing education of persons who are visually impaired in Swaziland. This is evident by how the only resource centre for the blind in Swaziland struggles ever since its establishment in 1969 to-date."
He lamented that government was supporting education for other groups of people with disabilities but not the visually impaired.
"The effects are that ever since the establishment of the Resource Centre for the Blind, there have been less than 100 pupils with visual impairment who have completed their high school education. As for the 2005 educational year, less than 30 pupils were at St. Joseph's Resource Centre for the Blind. Among the products of the centre, less than two visually impaired persons have had access to tertiary training within local institutions."
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