Overcoming Barriers; The Struggle for Inclusion of Disabled students in Zimbabwe

by | Oct 31, 2023 | Opinion and Analysis | 0 comments

Vongai Masuka

In a world striving for inclusivity, the experience of disabled individuals often sheds light on the challenges they face in navigating everyday life. Mutemachimwe Sandra, a determined 31-year-old woman with deformed lower limbs from birth, shares her poignant journey as a student at Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) and the hurdles she encountered along the way.

Sandra’s pursuit of education took her to GZU in 2021, where she embarked on an honours degree in inclusive education. Her passion for inclusivity in education was deeply personal, fuelled by her own experiences as a person living with a disability. However, her time at GZU proved to be more challenging than anticipated.

From the onset, Sandra faced physical barriers which made accessing her lectures a daily struggle. The university’s infrastructure lacked the necessary provisions to accommodate individuals with disabilities, requiring her to navigate flights of stairs to reach classrooms situated on higher floors. Despite raising her concerns multiple times, her pleas for assistance fell on deaf ears, and no action was taken to address the issue.

The challenges didn’t end there. Lectures held in different venues posed further difficulties for Sandra as she grappled with the long distances between locations. Her attempts to bring attention to this issue yielded no results, leaving her with no choice but to miss several important lectures, which impacted her academic progress.

Even during the crucial final exams, Sandra’s determination to succeed was tested. Climbing stairs with strained legs became an arduous task, and she often relied on the benevolence of fellow students for assistance. Despite these hardships, Sandra’s tenacity prevailed, and she managed to complete her course, filled with excitement and anticipation for her graduation.

However, the lack of inclusivity persisted even on the day of her graduation. Arriving at the main campus gate, Sandra was shocked to learn that she was not permitted to enter with a car. This unexpected setback meant she had to navigate the campus on foot, further taxing her already strained legs. Though she successfully collected her certificate, the same ordeal repeated itself during the graduation rehearsals, leaving her disheartened and questioning the university’s commitment to inclusivity.

As Sandra returns home to Kwekwe, a sense of disappointment lingers. The culmination of her academic journey should have been a joyous occasion, but the persistent barriers she faced have cast a shadow over her achievements.
Sandra’s story serves as a reminder of the pressing need for universities and educational institutions to prioritize inclusivity and accessibility.

By implementing practical solutions such as ramps, elevators, and designated accessible routes, the barriers faced by disabled students can be significantly reduced, fostering an environment where everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive and contribute to society.
In a world where acceptance and understanding can be hard to come by, one individual’s journey through education, church, and society stands as a testament to resilience and the power of self-belief. Amidst the setbacks and challenges faced, this person’s story is one of courage, determination, and the unwavering pursuit of personal growth. Her name is Lorna Chosani.

Growing up, attending a mixed school like Danhiko School was a blessing. The environment provided an opportunity to interact and feel comfortable with a diverse range of individuals. However, the road was not without its difficulties. During lessons, it became evident that this student struggled with writing at a slower pace than their peers, making it challenging to keep up with the class. The frustration was further amplified by the fact that some teachers failed to recognize the underlying struggle, often dismissing or overlooking the student’s handwriting issues.

Outside the classroom, the church became a sanctuary, offering avenues for participation and self-expression. Yet, even there, the journey was not without its obstacles. While actively contributing ideas, it was disheartening to experience a lack of serious consideration due to preconceived notions about the person’s abilities or background. Despite facing such setbacks, this student remained determined and continued to contribute, gradually earning the respect and recognition they rightfully deserved.

Unfortunately, society is not always kind. It can be filled with individuals who seek to take advantage of others, using their name or circumstances for personal gain. This student encountered such experiences, where their vulnerability was exploited, and they were subjected to name-calling and mistreatment. However, rather than succumbing to the negativity, this individual found strength and resilience within, refusing to let others define their worth.

This remarkable journey serves as a reminder of the power of perseverance, self-belief, and the importance of cultivating an inclusive and supportive environment. It highlights the need for greater awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by individuals who may have different learning styles or unique circumstances. By fostering an atmosphere of empathy and acceptance, we can create spaces where everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive and contribute their unique perspectives.

It is through stories like these that we are reminded of the tremendous potential lying within each individual, irrespective of their background or perceived limitations. It is a call to action for educators, institutions, and society as a whole to embrace diversity and create an inclusive environment that nurtures and empowers every individual.

As we celebrate the triumphs of this resilient student, let us be inspired to challenge our own biases, to see beyond surface appearances, and to embrace the inherent value and potential within each person we encounter. By doing so, we can collectively work towards a more compassionate and equitable society, where everyone’s voice is heard, and no one is left behind.

As we move forward, it is crucial to work collectively towards building a society that embraces diversity and ensures that no one is left behind. Only then can we truly claim to be inclusive and create a world where every individual, regardless of their abilities, can pursue their dreams and aspirations.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



WordPress PopUp Plugin