Friday, 06 July 2012 14:25

NAMIBIA launches agenda with special emphasis on children living with disabilities

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5 July 2012 – This year’s Day of the African Child was commemorated under the theme ‘The Rights of the Children with disabilities: The Duty to Protect, Respect, Promote and Fulfil’.

The event served as a platform to launch Namibia’s National Agenda for Children (2012-2016), a document demonstrating and articulating the country’s commitment to the rights of its children.

The agenda, which was developed by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare with support from UNICEF, puts special emphasis on the need for programmes supporting children with disabilities and ensuring they benefit from disability grants.

“We are using the occasion of the Day of the African Child to ensure that children living with disabilities in Namibia must be protected, their rights must be respected, their rights must be promoted and their rights must be fulfilled,” said UNICEF Representative in Namibia Micaela Marques de Sousa.

The launch took place on 16 June in Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, and was attended by children, senior officials of the government, and partners. There, Prime Minister Nahas Angula described the situation of the children in the country.

“The Namibian child is at risk. The Namibian child is malnourished. The Namibian child is orphaned and the Namibian child is homeless,” he said.

Gaining self-confidence

When 16-year-old Tetny Dabster talks, her voice reveals her self-confidence. But she wasn’t always like this.

From the day she was born, she has lived under the care of her 76-year-old grandmother, Evelyn Dabster. Her mother, an alcoholic, rarely visits. Life was not easy for Tetny.

“It is difficult for me to communicate with her because sometimes she is very slow for me and sometimes she is too fast, so it is hard for me,” said Ms. Dabster.

Three years ago, Tetny’s previous school realized she had learning disabilities. She was transferred to Moreson School in Windhoek, a school for children with special needs.

Her current teacher, Gerty Orange, said that when Tetny arrived, she was timid and introverted. Thanks to Ms. Orange’s patience and the positive school environment, Tetny has since gained the self-confidence to speak out for herself.

“It really doesn’t affect me at all when people referred to me as a mentally impaired,” she said. “And I don’t care what people might think because I attend a special school. It is a school, isn’t it? And I learn a lot there… I would say to children with disability that they must learn. Learn and cope in the class.”

Brighter future

Namibia ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007. The country also ratified the convention’s Optional Protocol, which allows individual complaints to the Committee on the Right of Persons with Disabilities.

Despite the convention’s policies promoting inclusive education, many Namibian children with disabilities do not have access to education. The ‘Disability Policy Audit’ by the Southern African Federation of the Disabled, conducted in 2008, shows that over 50 per cent of Namibian children with disabilities never attended primary school. This problem is especially acute in rural areas.

Namibia has experienced sustained economic growth since gaining independence in 1990, which has placed the country into the category of upper-middle income countries’, but this growth has not been equitable – making the country one of the most unequal in the world.

But with the launch of the National Agenda for Children and this year’s focus on the rights of children with disabilities, the future is looking brighter for vulnerable children.

Source: UNICEF

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