By Nhau Mangirazi
MBIRE– Twelve-year old Ennerta Dati of Mahuwe Primary school is visually impaired but has been a rising and shining star in both special class resource centre unit and mainstream classes.
She attends special class under teacher Julian Zingwena who says she is well versed with all her lessons.
The school, situated in outlying rural remote parts of Mbire within Mashonaland Central province about 270 kilometres east of Harare.
It is here where Ennerta is a beacon of hope and rising star undergoing both braille lessons and mainstream lessons outshining over 235 classmates within mainstream classrooms in the Grade 5 cluster.
Ennerta is part of the ‘informal boarding school’ who is defying odds and shinning academically.
She is among six visually impaired girls and five boys benefitting from Save the Children assistance for inclusive education.
The programme covers eight districts including Mbire, Rushinga, Matobo, Beit Bridge, Binga, Hwange, Gokwe North and Gokwe South, part of a success story that cannot be ignored.
‘Since Ennerta came as a Grade Four learner, she has never disappointed despite her disability. She is naturally talented,’ explains Zingwena.
Grade Five mainstream teacher Doesmatter Marota is confident with Ennerta.
‘Ennerta will pass Grade Seven exams. She is committed besides the physical challenges doing well in English, Shona, Mathematics, General Paper. She is inspirational,’ says Marota.
Save the Children works in partnership with Ministry of Education and Leonard Cheshire Disability Zimbabwe Trust (LCDZ) as implementers.
Martin James, LCDT programs manager says mobilisation helped disabled children to attend lessons.
Save the Children project officer in Mbire district Beatrice Gambiza says ‘local boarding school’ is a success story for visually impaired children.
‘Mahuwe primary school is an informal boarding school but is no longer catering for locals only. We have others coming from as far as Guruve, Shamva and taking care of them including lack of accommodation since they share a room from a local female teacher. We cannot afford clothes and food for their upkeep,’ says Gambiza.
Government grants stopped
‘Government no longer pay grants to schools for the disabled students and it is affecting their welfare. We hope Government will consider reviving educational grants for children with disabilities,’ says Gambiza.
Mahuwe primary headmaster David Mujota admits that they are facing financial challenges.
‘This is a challenge but we cannot forsake these children because no-one is paying fees,’ says Mukota.
Mbire district non-formal educational officer Albert Zinyemba says they benefited from Save the Children intervention programs targeting disabled children.
‘We hope to have sustainable projects to manage operational costs at these school,’ says Zinyemba.
Catalyst for education development says Arunga
Save the Children country director Yvonne Arunga says they are working closely with partners for transitional purposes on inclusive education around the country.
‘The inclusive education project is a catalyst for development as we focus disabled children regardless of gender,’ says Arunga.
At least 146 children have been assisted through impact school programs, according to James.
‘We had campaigns with parents of children with disabilities and parents of children without disabilities as well Disability People Organisations (DPOs) among others,’ says James.
‘Community campaigns gave a positive approach on importance of enrolling children with disabilities in mainstream schools. Save the Children has availed materials for the adaptations including construction of ramps, pathways, making doors wider for easy access by wheelchair users. Schools are also encouraged to build toilets that are disability friendly with toilet seats, supporting rails inside among others,’ he adds.
He says LCDZ held workshops for teachers at schools where a deaf child has been enrolled after assessing children with disabilities professionally.
‘Children with mental, language and speech challenges or learning disabilities are assessed by Schools Psychological Services. We are happy that we are assisting disadvantaged members of the communities and it is paying off,’ he says.
‘We also offer counselling services to children with disabilities and their families, says James.
Ennerta’s success story is both touching and inspirational that disability is inability here.