The physical act of getting to school is undoubtedly one of the biggest barriers to education among children with disabilities in Zimbabwe. In areas where schools are distant, for many children living with disabilities, the task of going to school has always been a nightmare, hence most of them drop out of school due to the lengthy distances which they have to travel to attend school.
However, a new initiative spearheaded by Michael Tinotenda Foundation (MTF) which offers wheelchairs to persons with disabilities has seen many of their lives being transformed by reducing the heavy burden of not being able to attend school.
The initiative seeks to help persons living with disabilities and caregivers by providing tangible resources, therapies and clinical knowledge on how to ensure that disabled children attend school in a community-based environment.
“We assist people with disabilities with wheelchairs and therapies on a regular basis since they derive physical benefit such as improved co-ordination, balance, mobility muscle strength and speech. We also work to make sure they have cognitive benefits like concentration, self-reliance and confidence,” said MTF founder, Fadzai Ruziye.
She added: “This is a social enterprise that is partnering with different local organisations to make going to school easier for the disabled children. The initiative is a remarkable project, which should be celebrated and supported.
Providing wheelchairs empowers and protects disabled children, and guarantees their school attendance.
We believe that by transforming the way the disabled move from point A to point B, their literacy levels can be improved.”
So far wheelchairs have been donated to Bulawayo and Harare and beneficiaries expressed great joy in receiving them.
15-year-old Gugulethu Sibanda, a beneficiary of the scheme, has commended the life-changing initiative.
“Before I got the wheelchair, my mother carried me on her back and trekked the road to take me to school. She used to sleep at 9pm and wake up as early as 4:30am to do the domestic house chores early in the morning before going with me to school.
It normally takes over 45 minutes to reach school. I didn’t think I would finish my studies. I know most people were waiting for me to give up and drop out. Education isn’t taken seriously for people with disabilities but at least now I got a wheelchair,” said Gugulethu smiling and clutching the edge of her wheelchair.
Another beneficiary Moses Membo said having a wheelchair will ensure that he moves freely at home.
“The wheelchair has since been a blessing in my life and has given me a sense of freedom. It has given me new “legs”. I no longer have to brave the pain of crawling about in the rocky terrain around my home.
“The wheelchair has also been a greatest sigh of relief for my mother. As I grow, I keep getting heavier to carry and my mother would never want to endanger me by leaving me at home alone. Getting a wheelchair has made movement very easy for me even when going to school.”
He added: “I feel like one day I’ll be somebody after I excel in school. I feel like maybe I’ll be the one in my family who can get them all out of poverty”.
Mr Sipho Ncube (23) a beneficiary of MTF, is a perfect example of how children with disabilities can excel if supported.
“I am an artiste and next year I will be graduating from Mzilikazi Arts and Crafts Centre. I also make bangles and necklaces from beads which I sell in town so that I can be able to support myself,” said Mr Ncube.
MTF’s inclusive programming continues to restore hope and relief for disabled children and vulnerable families.
Every child, regardless of his or her physical status has the right to freely participate in activities, especially to go to school and play, like able-bodied children. However, several children with disabilities are often restricted by their conditions.
As part of their charity work, MTF intends to reach out to the less privileged in every corner of Zimbabwe. Their vision is to have a day care centre for disabled children.