A chorus of urgent pleas resounded across Harare recently as educators and advocates laid bare the devastating reality faced by students with disabilities in Zimbabwe.
Convened by the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ), the workshop served as a stark wake-up call, urging the government to prioritize inclusive education before countless generations are left behind.
ARTUZ president Obert Masaraure minced no words, demanding a decisive shift towards inclusivity. He underscored the crucial need for either dedicated special schools staffed by trained personnel or, conversely, for mainstreaming disabled students into regular schools equipped with proper facilities and resources.
“Our government must prioritize inclusive education or risk leaving generations of students with disabilities behind.”
He also stated that there is a dire lack of the resources, citing the scarcity of assistive devices for hearing-impaired students and Braille materials for the visually impaired.
The issue is compounded by inadequate teacher training, often leading to segregated classrooms and limited learning opportunities, he said.
“Discouraged and unsupported, many students with disabilities disengage and drop out, their dreams and aspirations are crushed by a system that fails them.”
ARTUZ vice president Christian Kayumba echoed the same sentiment, underscoring the need for improved infrastructure, particularly in rural areas where even basic accessibility remains a major hurdle.
“School buildings designed without consideration for wheelchair users trap students with disabilities in a literal sense,” she stated. “This is not just an inconvenience; it’s a fundamental denial of their right to education.”
Bulawayo-based teacher, Andile Anele Mabhena, added her voice to the chorus of demands. “These students are not burdens to be tolerated,” she declared. “They are individuals with potential, with dreams. It is our constitutional obligation to help them achieve those dreams, not deny them the chance to even try.”
Mabhena’s impassioned plea resonated with many in the workshop, who shared stories of frustration and neglect faced by students with disabilities.
The workshop concluded with a clear message to the government: act now, allocate the necessary resources, and dismantle the barriers that keep children with disabilities trapped in a broken system.