The community has been advised to give equal treatment to all children, regardless of their physical or disability status. The Child Support Tanzania (CST) Project Coordinator, Mr. Omoding James, gave the advice when discussing the work that CST is doing in Mbeya Region.
CST is based in Mbeya. It implements the Take all My Friends to School Project. The project focuses on supporting children with disability to access education.
James says CST works hand in hand with the community in order to provide schooling opportunity for children with disabilities. The project is funded by the Foundation for Civil Society (FCS). They have managed to increase community awareness on rights for children with disability.
“Some school authorities have begun to change their attitude. They have realized the need to support children with disability. For instance, at Juhudi Primary School, they have built ramps in some classrooms so as to support children with disability. Prior to the implementation of this project, there was no smooth passage to classrooms for children with disability at Iwambi. This is no longer the case. We have increased the number of children with disabilities from 62 to 78 in six schools. Currently the Government, through the Local Government Authority, is supporting programs aimed at assisting children with disability,” he says.
James says prior to the implementing of the project, CST observed that some parents could not afford to take their disabled children to school due to snags caused by distance and financial considerations. He also observed that some nearby schools did not neither had the capacity nor the teaching tools for accommodating and teaching children with disabilities. As a result, the children stayed home without going to school.
According to James, CST has supported the community to recognize the social and economic impact of stigma on children with disabilities. They have organized seminars for family members, teachers and government officials on facilitating equal and better treatment for children with disabilities.
“Our society must accept change and abandon discriminatory traditions, customs and taboos that stigmatize children with disabilities,” James says and adds, “Stigma has a direct link to poverty, especially in families with children with disabilities.”
He says that they have seen some parents, and in most cases men, abandon their families simply because their wives have given birth to children with disabilities. He added that there in some cases children with disabilities have been segregated and unequally treated by their own families. He says that once men abandon their families once their spouses give birth to disabled children; it creates a difficult environment for women to manage their day to day lives.
“Take the example of a mother out there who has failed to go to her farm due to the duty of taking care of her disabled child. When others are producing, she is at home. When her fellow villagers are harvesting, she has nothing to harvest. In the end, her family lives in extreme poverty,” he says.
“There are many disabled children in this community. Once these are left to interact only with their family members, it limits them the time to engage in economic activities. We need to engage the entire community to support children with disabilities,” he says.
The Regional Commissioner for Mbeya, Honorable Amos Makala, congratulates CST for implementing the project in his region. He says the project works in line with the 5th Government Development plan, which emphasizes education for all. Mr Makala argues that CST has been helping children with disabilities in their schooling, and also by forming children clubs where they teach about children’s rights and equal opportunities in education.
Zedekia Kalisi, is a mother of a child with albinism. She says her life began to be more financially unstable after giving birth to that child. “I used to be engaged in various economic activities. My husband loved me and supported the family financially. I never thought he would abandon us after having this baby,” she says while emphasizing that she has to stop doing most of her economic activities for the sake of just staying at home and taking care of her baby. “I thank CST for this project. It helps to educate people on the impact of stigma on children with disabilities. My child now goes to school. I also get sufficient time to work,” she says.