The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Stop Discriminating Against Physically Challenged - First Lady

First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe has urged parents of physically challenged children not to discriminate against them but provide them with equal education opportunities.

In a speech read on her behalf by Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Deputy Minister Cde Lazarus Dokora at a speech and prize giving ceremony at St Giles' primary school yesterday, Amai Mugabe said she had noted with sadness that children with special needs accessed education later than their siblings.

"These children with special needs should enjoy the right to access education early like other children in the mainstream. It has been noted with concern that some of these children access education late and this disadvantages them," she said. Amai Mugabe said Government was committed to the provision of inclusive and quality education for all children.

"Initiatives are being undertaken to ensure that most schools accommodate children with different needs in line with the tenets of the child friendly schools. This entails establishing infrastructure that is appropriate for all physically handicapped children," she said.

She said Government was highly committed to ensuring that all children access education, remain in school and achieve credible outcomes. The First Lady said various legislative instruments like the amended Education Act were crucial tools put by Government to ensure access to education for every child in the country. "Government came up with a social protection mechanism called the Basic Education Assistance Module to accomplish the stipulations of existing statutory instruments on the right of education.

"We are cognisant of some of the challenges that children with special needs encounter especially those with profound disabilities, hence boarding fees are paid only for children in special schools.

Amai Mugabe urged the private sector to collaborate with Government in ensuring the betterment of education in the country.

"I call upon the corporate world to join Government in its bid to promote inclusive education and chip in with cash and kind in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals," she said. During yesterday's ceremony, Deputy Minister Dokora, said beginning next year the St Giles' would be offering secondary school classes.

"Beginning next year the school will be offering secondary school education and this is a critical breakthrough. By doing this the Ministry has shown how befitting it is to facilitate education for all," he said.

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