By Duncan Mlanjira
Catholic Development Commission (CADECOM) has taken its Inclusive Education programme which it initiated in rural areas to another level by encouraging expectant mothers to conscientiously attend antenatal clinic sessions.
This is one way the parents can avoid bearing children with disabilities because antenatal clinic sessions advises expectant mothers many ways on how to live a healthy life, among other things, through eating proper balanced diets.
Inclusive Education is an academic programme aimed at integrating children with disabilities into public schools rather than getting them into their special institutions and is taking deep root that has seen positive high enrollment.
As one way of encouraging parents to adhere to solicitation on and importance of sending kids to schools, CADECOM visited Phalombe District on Tuesday, the main area that positively responds to Inclusive Education where its officials encouraged parents that now that the second term of primary school has just started they should make sure kids are in classes.
A convoy parade of decorated cars and motorcycles visited several areas of Senior Chief Chiwalo in which they engaged the villagers through a public address system.
And one other topic in discussion was the plea for expectant mothers to patronize antenatal clinics.
The residents were appraised that one of the contributing factors on mothers bearing kids with disabilities is their not attending these supposedly compulsory sessions where they receive medical health services and good nutritional advice.
The parade also made impromptu stops at two primary schools in Senior Chief Chiwalo’s area where they engaged with the learners, advising them to refuse any excuse from their parents asking them to abscond from classes unless they are ill.
The learners were also asked to make sure they embrace with love their schoolmates with disabilities.
When asked if they do take care with love their schoolmates with disabilities, the kids responded in unison that that’s what they do.
Last stop for the parade of cars and motorcycles was at Kambazo Health Centre where the officials found several mothers, who also said they now appreciate the advice they receive during antenatal clinics, that include eating balanced diet.
In her remarks, Cadecom Diocesan secretary Mandinda Zungu said they decided to be having these sensitization visit in order to inculcate in the kids the importance of education after realizing that some parents force kids to abscond from classes in order to perform some domestic chores.
“It’s the learners themselves who are telling our officers who make assessment visits to the communities that it’s their parents that sometimes make them miss school,” she said.
“So it has to start with the kids themselves to have the passion for education and such visits encourage them not to accept it when asked to abscond school in order to perform domestic chores.
“And we also need inspire the learners themselves to love their schoolmates with disabilities because that way their parents will continue sending them to school knowing their kids are being taken care of.”
She added that the country’s education system is not reaping much fruits because kids, especially the girl child, tend to drop out of school but with continuous assessments like they do in liaison with traditional leaders, parents are getting embarrassed when taken to task why their children are not in classes.
Phalombe’s District Education Manager’s officer Mercy Pinifolo-Chisoni, who is visually impaired, said the inclusive education programme has seen quite a good enrollment rate since it started in 2015.
She said her state of being blind but got educated and secured a good job does inspire most parents to send their kids with disabilities into public schools.
“I always encourage parents and learners that having a disability does not make one not able to take care of themselves because the education they can get can lead them to become very productive citizens just like the rest of us are achieving.
“We need to encourage and support each other. I always surprise people because I also successfully carry out personal business apart from being employed,” Pinifolo-Chisoni said.
Accompanying the entourage was Catholic priest, Father Francisco Hau of Chiringa Parish, who was also encouraging the learners to include spiritual culture in their lives as well.
According to CADECOM, Phalombe has a high rate of people with disabilities and that prompted the Catholic Church’s development arm to intervene after discovering that such children are discriminated against in terms of being enrolled in schools.
So far, several school teachers in the districts have undergone special training since 2011 where they learn sign language, others teaching vision impared kids and others with skills in teaching slow learners.
Inclusive education involves changes and modifications in content, approach, structure, teaching strategies, modified curriculum as well as school culture and attitudes.
It is based on the notion that schools should without question, provide for the needs of all the children, whatever the levels of their abilities and disabilities by providing support that enhance participation and achievement.
The programme is being executed in partnership with South Africa-based Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA).