The lust for change: Challenges against the fight for inclusive education in Zimbabwe’s rural schools

School children sit outside a school in central Nairobi, Kenya
School children sit outside a school in central Nairobi, Kenya

By Abednico Siambombe

The mantra of this piece is to highlight the major challenges faced by children living with disabilities in schools and at their homes. The fight against stereotyping and segregation of children living with disability in the rural schools need more attention when compared to what is happening in the urban setup in developing countries. Disability is mainly affecting the younger generation especially the school going age which has little but a lost future due to some incredible marginalization from the societies where they come from.

As of past, disability was regarded as a misfortune and today some societies fail to embrace people living with disabilities amongst them regarding them to be a sign of curse. Of late in developing countries’ societies such as of Zimbabwe, children who were born with certain disabilities were usually killed unless born from a family which had influence in the community and was capable of resisting such human degrading actions.

Most children living with disability are victims of negligence, segregation and abuse in developing countries such as Tanzania where children born with albinism are subjected to traditional sacrifices and rituals making it impossible for them to attend school as they live in fear. Such false myths against children with albinism has accelerated the negative attitude of societies in relation to the education of children living with disabilities and their survival is so difficulty in the communities as they are now the endangered species amongst their own people.

Most children living with disabilities have failed to access quality and adequate education when compared to those with less disability as none can be totally ruled to be abled since disability is defined by the environments in which one will be at a given period. An example can be a French speaking person placed amongst the Zulu speaking people without a background of French. This will limit him or her in communicating with other members of a society.

A child living with disabilities face a great challenge educationally as the education system in rural areas is not inclusive despite some governmental policies being put in place to mainstream disability and has a disability inclusive education in Zimbabwe. The policies designed by the government of Zimbabwe attempting to promote inclusive education fail because there is little done to ensure that such policies are implemented. This entails that the policies are produced by people who are not living with disability and these people have no feeling of how painful it is being sidelined in nations bragging to be independent.

The infrastructures in rural schools do not support inclusive education. This is so because in rural schools it is hard to find a school with proper structures such as ramps, rails or tarmac surfaces which can enhance the mobility of devices such as wheelchairs. The worst of the conditions in these rural schools is the sanitation facilities where by the toilets (mainly pit latrines) cannot be easily accessed by children living with physical disability. Before the children are even segregated by their school mates, the schools’ administrative bodies have run in the forefront to shut the dreams these children have towards education as their school development plans and policies are not inclusive.

Statesman have not been considerate on the education of children living with disability due to the fact that there are few expert teachers deployed or trained to teach and support children living with disability in rural schools of Zimbabwe. A pathetic situation is given in an example of Binga in Zimbabwe where the whole district with more than one thousand schools has less than four special education tutors including the remedial tutor at the district office.  This is a total denial of education to children living with disabilities despite the fact that they long for a better education and future as any other child.

In addition to the failures of the government, the schools are at the edge in achieving inclusive education since they do not have in place some policies to protect and support children living with disability. In rural schools stereotyping is rife and high on children living with disability. Because of this, children living with disability tend to quit school as they fail to cope with the circumstances and conditions they encounter in such schools.

In rural societies of Zimbabwe, disability is intertwined with poverty and lack of knowledge by parents on the need to educate children living with disabilities. Most parents think children living with disability have no right to access education and tend to keep them indoors. However, some remain home due to the failure of their parents to acquire resources such as mobile devices which can enhance the movements of children living with disabilities.

In spite of the absence of mobile devices, most children living with disabilities in rural areas have no identity documents and lack recognition in institutions such as schools as the observation has indicated that few teachers in these schools give attention to such children. Such situations leaves little to be desired on improving the education of children living with disabilities and the failure of the government to stage local association for people living with disabilities has destroyed the enthusiasm to achieve inclusive education in rural Zimbabwe.

In rural areas the Child Protection Committees (CPCs) are much concerned with the protection of abled children and the abuse striking children living with disabilities is just ignored. Does this imply that children living with disabilities are a second class citizen of our nations? Such lack of recognition of children living with disabilities increases their vulnerability the chances for them attending school is very limited and thin.