It is estimated that at least 90 percent of Namibians living with disabilities are unemployed. This situation is exacerbated by low levels of access to formal education, the absence of proper rehabilitative systems and a lack of vocational training for people living with disabilities.
Vice-President Dr Nickey Iyambo said this yesterday when he addressed hundreds of people living with disabilities at the commemoration of the International Day of Disabled Persons at Henties Bay. The event was organised by the Erongo Regional Council.
The annual observance of the International Day of Disabled Persons was proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly, Resolution 47/3, and aims to promote an understanding of disability and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.
This year’s commemoration was held under the theme, “Inclusion matters: access and empowerment for people of all abilities.”
According to Iyambo, the government is aware that people living with disabilities have not been receiving the attention they deserve.
“We are aware that people living with disabilities have been neglected. We are also informed that the majority of Namibians living with disabilities do not have access to the same opportunities as those without disabilities. To overcome this situation and ensure access to opportunities will require that we redouble and prioritise our efforts in sectors that matter more,” the vice-president said.
He said that many challenges that people living with disabilities face need to be addressed. These include the enrolment and incorporation of more learners with disabilities into the mainstream education system, establishment of more special schools, broadening of their curricula, offering more vocational training and expanding national sign languages.
“Today we are celebrating their day but they feel lost as some don’t know what is happening. This should be a lesson for us as we are all responsible to make the change so that they understand what is happening around them,” he said. The minister said that much still needed to be done in terms of the training of teachers who teach people living with disabilities.
He also appealed to tertiary institutions to adjust their programmes to cater for those educating people living with disabilities so that it would be easier for them to enter mainstream education.
“They will need to encapsulate their current programmes to cater for people living with disabilities, while at the same time provide proper training for teachers. Our government through the education ministry is committed to the policy of inclusive education for all Namibians. It cannot be done overnight, but if we all make our small contribution it can happen,” Iyambo said.
He however said government “can only do so much, but the lasting change can only come if everyone in our homes, community and villages change our negative and cultural attitude towards people with disabilities”.
“Therefore let us coordinate our programmes and strategies for inclusivity of all Namibians,” he said.