TEDDY KUYELA, Kasama
IT IS a wish of every parent to have a child without a disability when it is born, yet circumstances and nature at times take away that wish and some parents end up having physically challenged children.
No mother has an idea of whether the child she is carrying has a disability or not, the situation is unpredictable.
And once the child with a disability is born, the options on how to raise that child continue to narrow. In terms of the childâ€™s access to education, the road gets narrower because of the limited schools which offer special education in Zambia.
It is, therefore, important for all Zambians to understand that people with disabilities have the same rights as everyone else in the community.
It is also displeasing that most people with disabilities have limited access to education and skills training due to a combination of factors that include lack of coherent national policy and technical support system to address their particular learning, education, employment and empowerment needs.
Particular needs and issues affecting people with disabilities generally are ignored in the national development planning agenda and their well-being is often treated as a matter of welfare rather than a fundamental human right.
On the other hand, people with disabilities lack the means to advocate for and claim their rights as citizens of Zambia.
It is not pleasing to mention that very little formal effort has been made to effectively address their basic needs with regards to accessing basic social services including education, skills training and sustainable livelihood opportunities.
In light of this and recognising that education is a fundamental human right for all as well as key instrument of development and social empowerment, Kasama Central member of Parliament Kelvin Sampa has decided to adopt Chileshe Chepela Special School for the disabled people in Kasama district.
The school, which has close to 300 pupils, was opened in 1976 and has never received any major facelift from the time it was opened and caters for pupils with different disabilities from Muchinga and Northern provinces.
Mr Sampa, who recently visited the school, where he donated assorted foodstuffs, expressed concern over the state of infrastructure and wondered why the school has not received attention from Government and other stakeholders despite it having been producing highly learned people with disabilities that are contributing massively to national development.
â€œI have taken this school with a special heart and let me inform you that I have adopted this school so that with my little resources, I can see how I can be helping out.
â€œI want these pupils to know that they are the future leaders of the nation and I want to encourage them to continue working hard and regard education as key to prosperity,â€ he said.
Mr Sampa said in order to address the challenges faced by people with disabilities, and in particular to enable and include them in national development, there is need by Government to empower them by removing socio-economic and cultural barriers to their development as well as by creating an environment supportive of inclusive social progress.
In reaffirming his commitment to developing Kasama Central, Mr Sampa had earlier donated 30 blankets to St Fidelis Mission Hospital in Kasamaâ€™s Chilubula area worth over K30 million.
Mr Sampa said shortly after donating the blankets that he would continue to work hard and ensure that all the challenges facing the health institution were soon addressed.
And in receiving the donation, St Fidelis Mission Hospital sister-in-charge Charity Chishimba thanked Mr Sampa for the gesture saying the donation would go a long way in improving the health standards at the institution.
â€œThese blankets will go a long way in assisting our mothers in the maternity wards and we are appealing to you and the government to continue to do more so that we can continue looking and caring after our sick people in communities,â€ Sr Chishimba said.
During a three-day tour of his constituency, Mr Sampa also urged Government to quickly come up with a deliberate policy that will effectively promote the development of the tourism sector in Northern and Luapula provinces.
Mr Sampa said tourism is a fast-expanding sector which makes an important contribution to the growth of the Zambian economy and contributes to job creation.
He said the Ministry of Tourism and Arts should join hands with the private sector, through the public private partnership, in improving the tourism sector and making it more attractive.
â€œWe have a lot of waterfalls here and a lot of beautiful sceneries and what we are just lacking is vigorous marketing so that investors start coming to invest in this sector.
â€œWhen tourism is promoted in this area, a lot of job opportunities will be created and the living standards of people will be improved,â€ Mr Sampa said.
He said Government should start holding talks with various stakeholders to improve the tourism potential in Northern and Luapula provinces.
Mr Sampa said Governmentâ€™s objective should be to facilitate growth of the tourism sector through the promotion of private sector participation.
Government should also ensure that the differently-abled people are provided with free access to Government health services and other facilities that will make their lives much better.
With the pace at which Mr Sampa is working, Kasama Central is definitely poised for more development and it is hoped that the people of Kasama will continue supporting the policies of the government to help foster development in the area.
TEDDY KUYELA, Kasama