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Strengthening abilities of Children with disabilities

BANDA, a disabilities rights advocate (in wheelchair).

LILLIAN BANDA
TIMMA Chibomba, 26, is a vibrant young pastor in waiting who speaks with such enthusiasm about his calling.He has already been to a Theological school and now awaits deployment.
Aside from being passionate about preaching and teaching, he sings in the praise team at Matero East Church of God church.
To earn a living, he sells phone accessories and electronic gadgets.
“I love what I do. I think it is important for every individual to be passionate about what they do for them to have that sense of fulfilment in life,” he says.
Speaking to Timma makes one forget about the fact that he has cerebral palsy and the left part of his body is partially paralysed, something that has been attributed to the multiple illnesses he endured during his formative years.
“My family has always believed in me and encouraged me to pursue my dreams. I also have my friends and my church -mates to thank for what I have become,” he points out.
He refuses to consider himself a victim but rather prefers to be seen as a person that has overcome challenging conditions and limitations, a stance that his friends and colleagues say is true about him.
I think a disability is but a limitation that should not in any way affect other abilities that an individual has. Society would do well to focus on how best to assist children with disabilities so that they can realise their potential,” says 23-year-old Sophia Lungu, Timma’s childhood friend.
And a parent of a child with a disability notes that community’s response towards a child’s disability can impact the child’s confidence and development.
Iness Kamanga 44, mother of an adolescent boy who has a speech impairment says communities need to be encouraged to embrace children with disabilities through targeted programmes.
“This would make the integration of children with disabilities into society easy,” Ms Kamanga says.
For many, having a disability can appear to be a constraint, something that limits one’s prospects and reduces opportunities, more so if it happens suddenly.
Timma’s journey has been a long and hard one.
But his story inspires hope in that it demonstrates how a good community support system can help a child with a disability develop into an individual that contributes to society in many respects.
But bringing out the best in a child with a disability goes beyond just accepting the limitations that the said child has.
It requires taking steps to ensure they are properly integrated into society.
What exactly should be done to make this integration process much easier?
“Having infrastructure that is universal and accessible to all, the kind that children with disabilities can access without difficulties.
‘‘Learning institutions, health facilities and religious and recreational buildings should be of universal design with ramps and other things needed for children with disabilities to access them.
Most schools have toilets and pathways and passages including some building materials not user-friendly for children with disabilities,” explains Ms Astridah Nkalamo Kunda, Zambia Association of Parents for Children with Disabilities (ZAPCD) National Coordinator.
Ms Kunda adds that along with the right infrastructure, schools should provide well-trained teachers and appropriate teaching aids.
She observes that the majority of children are needlessly sent to far-flung areas to get an education when such can be made available within their own communities.
“Creating an inclusive society entails making services, including education, available to all within communities. This means that schools are as close as possible to where these children are. Many disabilities are manageable. This means that children with impairments can go to the same school as those without disabilities unless the disability is such that one really needs to be sent go to a special school,” explains Kunda.
She has also appealed to religious groups to consider providing sign language interpreters to encourage children with hearing impairments to attend religious meetings.
She notes that the introduction of physiotherapy services in most urban health facilities is a plus in ensuring that an aspect of community based rehabilitation is being realised and hoped that other services would also be made available within the community.
And disabilities rights advocate Ian Banda, 25, notes with sadness that a significant number of children with disabilities have no access to education because most school buildings are not user-friendly.
“A good education enables a child with a disability to participate fully and to achieve their potential. That is why is it important to ensure that children with disabilities realise their right to education because only then do they have better chances of excelling in life and contributing to their communities. This is why it is important to invest in inclusive education,” says Ian Banda.

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