Today, the International Day of Persons with Disability, Yasmeen H. Somani, Researcher from Aga Khan University, Pakistan, asks, “do you know a child with disabilities?”
Edited by: Dr. McFarlanec
photo credit: whatworks.co.za
Do you know a child with disabilities? Over five million people in Pakistan have a disability. Many of these people are children, who are frequently kept in homes and removed from play and important interaction with other children. Does our government provide programs for these disabled youth and the parents who care for them? To learn more about these special youth with disabilities, I spoke to disabled youth in Hyderabad, Sindh. I visited 3 schools for blind and deaf and mute disabled youth. The schools were operated under the Director of Social Welfare Department, Government Service Center for Blind School and Government College for Special Education.
I felt the children were deprived of needed teachers and resources for successful study. I talked to boys and girls of 12 to 18 years of age. I learned their lives are very limited to home and school only. They are not included in our neighborhoods and society. They live very isolated lives with limited access to information and knowledge. How can they receive needed education and social services when systems are not in place? I met blind students who learn through brail and are required to appear at a written board exam with sighted students.
A girl who is deaf and mute said, “I do not come to school because the teachers do not teach us”. A boy who is also deaf and mute reported; “my teacher does not understand sign language, so how can he teach me?” Another boy who is blind said “Teachers just sit, listen to students talk, and later blame us for not learning” Despite learning limitations, the disabled youth were happy to go to school as their world is limited to home and school, especially for blind girls. One youth mentioned, “I was happy when I was a child at least I can go play outside my house but now that I’m older, I am not allowed to go outside alone, and I do not have any friends.”
When we hear the word school, we automatically think of friends, books, library, playground, teachers and most important learning to gain knowledge and prepare for a future path. Our disabled children in Pakistan also want to have fond memories of school. They want to learn and develop skills for making a future for themselves. However, the children I spoke with are not being challenged at school. The children report harassment at school, with stones thrown at them, and one child reported being locked in the washroom. The children were not safe at their home. One girl reported being harassed by neighbors when left alone by her parents.
In Pakistan, only 14 percent of persons with disabilities are employed. The remaining disabled persons depend on family members for financial support. The Directorate General of Special Education & Social Welfare has developed institutions for the disabled. These institutions are not sufficient. Disabled children and adults need quality education for skill building for career paths. Teachers of the disabled need capacity building to learn strategies for effectively teaching the disabled. Government schools need application of new technology to mainstream disabled youth to learn and interact with non-disabled youth. All youth in Pakistan deserve schooling to learn and develop to their fullest.
The What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls programme is working to understand the status of disability in lower and middle-income countries, find out more here: https://whatworks.co.za/resources/film-and-audio