Church worry over continued stigma in schools

By Draxon Maloya:

The Mzuzu Diocese in the Roman Catholic Church has expressed it’s disappointment with an increase in number of learners with various forms of disabilities withdrawn or dropping out of school due to stigmatization.

The condemnation comes in the wake of recent reports indicating high learners with physical disabilities dropping out of school and poor participation in extra carriculum activities due to stigma and lack of interest on the part of teachers.

Diocesean Deputy Director of Social Development who is also Director of Education, Isaac Cheke Ziba registered the concern at Jati Primary school in Mzimba District when the Diocese in collaboration with health personnel from African Bible College conducted screening exercises on people with various physical challenges.

Ziba said out of 44 schools where the Diocese has managed to reach out with it’s project, Improved Access to Education and Governance, a total of 800 learners have been assisted in relation to their physical challenges.

“Mzuzu Diocese has a total of 262 Schools to it’s credit but the project has so far reached out to 44 schools where a total of 800 learners with various forms of disabilities have been assisted, but it is sad to hear some of the nasty stories related to school going children with disabilities apart from school being withdraw or dropouts,” Ziba said.

He then called on government and other relevant stakeholders to conduct a thorough research and come up with proper strategic plan that will maximise efforts in the implementation of inclusive education in the country.

Earlier this week the Malawi Paralympics Committee (MPC) launched a Sports against Stigma initiative in Mzuzu, aimed at eliminating any form of stigmatization in schools.

Vice President of the Malawi Paralympics Committee, Joseph Galanje also expressed his concern saying children with physical challenges have been sidelined in Sporting activities which also affects their school performance hence need to equip teachers with skills and knowledge on how to assist them.

“Learners with various physical challenges have not been participating in sporting activities and we have to kick out stigma in schools, so we need to equip these teachers with skills and knowledge on how best they will assist them to take part in sports hence targeting schools,” Galanje said.

In her remarks, Northern Region School’s Health and Nutrition Officer, Zamiwe Nkhoma said there is need for maximum pupil participation even in extra carriculum if special needs eduction should bare tangible fruits.

“All the children should participate in sports without stigmatization as we are talking about inclusive education which also include sports, apart from identifying sporting activities these teachers drawn from all the three regions of the country will contribute towards the success of this project drawn at national scale,” Nkhoma said.

A representative from Malawi National Sports Council, Funny Mbawalo Phiri made an assurance that government through Sports Council will ensure smooth and successful implementation of sports against stigma in mainstream schools.

Mzuzu Diocese is implementing a year long Improved Access to Education and Governance Project with funding from Misean Cara of Dublin, Ireland to the tune of Euro120 000.00 translating to k120 million in local currency.

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