Government should expedite bringing education for people with disabilities to the mainstream fold

If you are a Person living with Disability (PWD) and you live in Botswana, it is safe to say your quality of life is not different from that of people who walked this earth in the 1800s, if not worse.
Globally, the development context is such that discrimination against any person on the basis of disability is a violation of the inherent dignity and worth of the human person and should be eliminated in an inclusive society. Yet People with Disabilities continue to face barriers in their participation as equal members of society. The need to eliminate these barriers has not only shaped but also motivated the disability movement in Botswana. This movement, we should emphasize, was started by a civil society comprising very committed, passionate and resolute men and women of old who despite being under-resourced achieved immeasurable milestones in terms of moving the disability agenda forward. Worth a note is the departure from the charity and medical models of disability to the social method.

The former views disability as a disease and focuses exclusively on providing medical services to the individual and in the process promote and perpetuate exclusion from the mainstream society. The latter, however, focuses on the different ways in which the disabling physical, psychosocial and cultural barriers exclude PWDs and takes a more holistic approach to interventions that effectively address their special needs. Also worth a note is the subscription by the Botswana Government to the global disability agenda as demonstrated by the observation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the African Union’s Plan of Action of the African Decade for People with Disabilities.

On the ground, civil society organizations run schools and rehabilitation institutions for PWDs. Government has recently attempted a lazy effort at catching up. While the work done by the former generation of civil society leaders cannot be underplayed, it is disheartening to hear what goes on in civil society organizations of the present day. We carry a story about the Botswana Society for the Deaf (BSD) which receives subvention funds from Government, instead of investing all the funds to benefit the hearing impaired kids who attend their schools in Francistown and Ramotswa, they embezzle the funds. It is common knowledge that subventions from Government are never enough and if portions of the funds are embezzled, you wonder what happens to the poor recipients of BSD services. Actually, there is a stalemate between BSD and The Ministry of Education, where the latter will not disburse any more subvention funds to the former until the last disbursement has been fully accounted for. And Government is the main donor. The BSD run schools are the only primary education offering institutions for the deaf in the country. What will happen? Isn’t it time Government either ran schools catering for specific needs of PWDs or converted sections of the existing school infrastructure into disability schools? We are self-sufficient in teachers and do not necessarily need all these teacher training colleges. Convert them to schools for PWDs. We have also graduated enough Special Education teachers, most of them are walking the streets unemployed, engage them.