By Sydney Gokomere
Mberengwa, November 08, 2016 – GLADYS Cleopas (60) of Mataga growth point in Mberengwa is a mother of six.
Three of her children aged 28, 23 and 22 are mentally challenged and were forced to drop out of school after they were repeatedly teased by other pupils for their condition.
This is just but one isolated case of mentally challenged children who face discrimination from society because of their condition in this poor Mberengwa area in Midlands.
Cleopas said as a parent, she is saddened that her children’s life was ruined because of their condition.
She called on government to introduce systems aimed at curbing such forms of discrimination in schools.
“My first born child aged 28, third and fourth children aged 23 and 22 respectively failed to get education because they were verbally abused by other kids at school,” Cleopas told RadioVOP in a recent interview.
“At school, other children hurled insults at them calling them “mapenzi” (mad people) and they always came home crying.”
Cleopas said the abuse subjected to her children at school forced her to withdraw them from the learning institution.
As if seeing her children prematurely drop out of school was not enough, she now has to endure the life time burden of looking after her grown up children as they cannot fend for themselves.
“If charitable organisations could come to our rescue with income generating projects, we would be grateful,” she said.
Cleopas said it was not only her children who were affected by their condition but the rest of the family as well.
She said society often stigmatised people who gave birth to mentally challenged children adding that she is no exception.
“There is a lot of finger pointing and many people blame parents who give birth to mentally disabled children on witchcraft,” she said.
“The situation does not help the children either as there is a lot of disdain and hatred from their peers further exacerbating the discrimination.”
Speaking at a Unicef State of the World Children Report three years ago, National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (Nascoh) director Farai Gasa Mukuta said society had a negative attitude towards disabled children.
Mukuta said 50 percent of children with disability were failing to access education while 100 percent of toilets in schools could not be accessed by those on wheelchairs.
President Robert Mugabe’s special advisor on disability and the disadvantaged, Retired Brigadier General Felix Muchemwa (now late) once told government the country lacked disability data, a situation worsening the plight of children living with disability.