Disabled learners lack university education

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Albertina Nakale

Windhoek-The National Federation of People with Disabilities in Namibia (NFPDN) wants the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture to investigate why the majority of learners living with disabilities do not complete their formal education and do not make it to university.

Those worst affected are mainly the hearing-impaired learners, the NFPDN said.
According to the Namibia 2011 Census Disability Report, the proportion of persons with disabilities without any formal education was very high in rural areas (82.3%) compared to urban areas (17.7%).

The report shows that urban areas recorded the highest proportion of persons with disabilities that have completed secondary education (64.6%), as well as tertiary education (75.6%).

Namibia reportedly has 98,413 persons living with disabilities, according to the report. Among the world’s poorest, one in five persons living in absolute poverty suffers impairment.

Despite Namibia having been given disability ambassadorial country status, there is little to envy when it comes to the difficulties people living with disabilities ordinarily face in trying to access and complete formal education.

NFPDN chairperson Daniel Trum yesterday called on the Ministry of Education to probe the conditions of hearing-impaired learners who fail to pass Grade 10 and proceed to Grade 12 and university.
“Deaf learners are not able to pass Grade 10 and 12 to access tertiary education. I don’t think there is anyone who passed Grade 10 and proceeded to Grade 12 to date,” Trum noted, adding that the graduates would number no more than five learners.

Trum said there is an urgent need for the association to work with the Ministry of Education to identify where the problem lies and solve it, so as to improve the lives and prospects of these learners.

Furthermore, he lamented the fact that for those who pass Grade 12, access to tertiary education remains a major challenge.

He charged that some private higher learning institutions have a tendency to shun such learners, but acknowledged that the University of Namibia (Unam), the Namibian University of Science and Technology (Nust), as well as the International University of Management (IUM) accept learners living with disabilities.

Trum also urged government to ensure that people living with disabilities are included in all decision-making processes.

“We don’t want other people making decisions for us, but people to make decisions with us. There are many places that are designed without accommodating people living with disabilities. People with disabilities existed before airplanes were crafted. You should rather adjust to accommodate those you found on Earth,” he remarked.

Trum was referring to a recent incident following which Air Namibia issued a public apology after a person with a disability was barred from boarding a flight. The 16-year-old girl was prevented from boarding an Air Namibia flight from Walvis Bay to Windhoek, because she was wheelchair-bound.

Vice President Nickey Iyambo, who received the award yesterday, said in Namibia there are still many people – especially in the rural areas – who do not have access to basic government services and who are kept locked up.
He said government is doing everything it can to ensure such people benefit from social grants and other welfare benefits.

“I want to promise my fellow citizens living with disabilities that I will do everything to ensure they are treated equally, like other citizens in the republic,” he pledged.

He also applauded Unam, Nust and the Namibia Students Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF), as well as other institutions that have adopted an inclusive approach to their operations.

Unam set up a Disability Unit and plans are underway to upgrade it to a centre, which Iyambo believes is a step in the right direction.

He said the narrative of achievement by persons with disabilities would not be complete without mentioning their phenomenal successes in sports on the international arena.
“Our Paralympians have done very well on international platforms of note, such as at the just-ended Paralympics in Brazil.

“I must acknowledge that government has made great strides with disability initiatives. However, a lot still needs to be done to ensure the status of persons with disabilities is improved.”

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