Malawi Council for the Handicapped (MACOHA), Mchinji Disabilities Rehabilitation Officer, Master Kachule has expressed worry with the large number of learners with diverse learning needs such as proper materials to help them with their education.
Kachule said the development leaves over 2,500 learners with disabilities in the district forlorn as they mingle with fellow able-bodied leaners and share the same resources.
Kachule was speaking on Sunday at Mkanda secondary school hall during international day of persons with disabilities commemorations in Mchinji.
“In as far as education is concerned, persons with disabilities are hampered by factors like attitudinal barriers whereby people think persons with disabilities cannot manage to be in school, environmental barriers where persons with disabilities especially those using wheelchairs cannot access school premises due to designs of buildings, lack of assistive devices like wheelchairs and institutional barriers where they are not allowed to wear long sleeved shirts especially for leaners with albinistic conditions,” he said.
Kachule has since called upon government and other partners in the education sector in the district to pool resources together through Mchinji District Education Network (MDEN) to create an enabling learning environment for children with disabilities.
On his part programmes Director for Pamodzi Inclusive Education in South East Africa under Rays of Hope, Richard Thindwa said through Pamodzi Inclusive Education Initiative, they are trying to accommodate everyone regardless of their physical condition.
“Seeing that Mchinji has more than 5,000 persons with disabilities and 2,500 leaners in schools that have diverse learning needs, we want to make sure that the policy government has put in place translates into supporting communities with relevant structures and programming paradigms that would ensure that children with disabilities attain education with all the support they may need,” he said.
Mchinji District Disability Forum (DDF) vice chairperson, Andida Mando concurred with Kachule and decried the myriad challenges that persons with disabilities face on a daily basis.
“There are several disabilities that we have in our communities: we have physical and intellectual disabilities including some which we cannot see. We face mobility challenges due to lack of wheelchairs, walking sticks therefore we cannot access certain infrastructure. We also have medical and security challenges being faced by our friends with albinism and cerebral palsy,” he said.
Mchinji District Council vice chairperson, Harris Chikoti said they have welcomed the idea of inclusive education as it will help learners with diverse forms of disabilities.
“As a district council, we will consider prioritizing learners with disabilities in school bursaries and when coming up with budgets at council level we will be ensuring that these leaners are a priority in order to achieve the inclusive education agenda,” he said.
In Mchinji, Rays of Hope and other partner organizations like Fount of Nations, Care and Girls Activists Youth Organization (GAYO) are working in Waliranji and Mkanda zones through community champions targeting 2,500 learners.
Mchinji district has over 5,000 persons with disabilities, 2,500 of whom are enrolled in school and lack proper learning materials.