from New Era .com, newspaper for a new Namibia:
Many children living with disabilities are locked up in their homes due to stigma related to their condition, says retired politician, Dr Libertina Amathila.
She says not explaining “important matters on disabilities” results in children being hidden in homes.
One reason for this, she says, is “people fearing to be accused of witchcraft or even being witches themselves and therefore punished for having a disabled child”.
Amathila was speaking at the launch of the Down Syndrome Association of Namibia (DSAN) last Thursday. The organisation was set up to raise awareness about Down Syndrome in society. Amathila said many children affected by Down Syndrome are not known as they are hidden.
“We must all support people living with disabilities and spread the message to parents and communities in general that they are not alone in having children or family members who are affected by Down Syndrome,” said Amathila.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Minister of Education, Dr David Namwandi, who spoke on government’s view on inclusive education, said the dreams of Namibian children who may have extraordinary needs, and who were discriminated against in the past or those who are excluded in one area or another, can be realised.
“As long as we all collectively work toward gaining the understanding that we learn differently, at different pace and still remain convinced that we all can achieve our goals differently,” said Namwandi. The education deputy minister told those in attendance that inclusive education calls for creating an inclusive learning environment where all learners feel welcomed.
“The realisation of the philosophy of inclusive education makes it absolutely possible to have an education system whose task is the provision of quality education to all,” Namwandi said.
Regardless of their physical and intellectual challenges, people living with Down Syndrome, “are just like you and me”, said Eline van der Linden, a mother of a five-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome.
“Unfortunately, society does not necessarily see it that way. They see a person who looks different, speaks perhaps not so clearly or not at all, a person with less social filters who expresses him or herself emotionally more freely. They see the Down Syndrome instead of the person,” Van der Linden said.
Down Syndrome is a chromosomal disorder arising at the time of conception. There is an extra chromosome that causes delays in physical and intellectual development