The project targets children and young people with disabilities in the districts of Lusaka and Ndola by promoting their socio-economic inclusion. 479 boys and girls will be offered inclusive and special education and recreational activities, job opportunities and better diagnosis and treatment for autism and epilepsy. Action will be taken to make school and recreational spaces more accessible, training will be offered to teachers and doctors and awareness will be raised among entrepreneurs and communities.
80% of people with disabilities obtaining a diploma
introduction to work of 103 people with disabilities
support to 150 children with
autism and epilepsy
Bwalya never left her house. She is not considered equal to other children. She’s seen as strange. She talks little. She is isolated. Her parents don’t want people to see her, to avoid them talking behind their back and judging. So they don’t let her out. Because of this she suffers, she is excluded. Her potential remains unfulfilled. Her situation is common to many boys and girls with disabilities in Zambia. As elsewhere in Africa, disability is seen as a tragedy to be hidden and those afflicted by it are social outcasts.
This is quite a significant phenomenon in this country. According to the 2015 Zambia National Disability Survey, the percentage of disability among adults is 10.9%, while among children and young people (2-17 years) this figure is 4.4%. 40% of disabilities are congenital, 31% are the result of serious illness or lack of treatment due to poverty.
Due to economic, cultural and social factors, young people with disabilities still do not enjoy the same rights as the rest of the population in Zambia. According to the National Disability Policy, the rate of literacy and access to primary education are lower among young people with learning difficulties (67% and 86.8%) than among those without (81.7% and 95%) and there is a 14.8% gap in access to recreational and sports spaces in favour of people without disabilities.
In Kanyama, a vulnerable suburb of Lusaka, and in Ndola, the capital of the Copperbelt, the exclusion of children with disabilities is even more serious. Due to the extreme poverty of the families of origin and the additional costs associated with the care of children with disabilities, their situation is exacerbated, thus fuelling the vicious circle of disability and poverty. Access to education – either primary or secondary – and recreational activities is hampered by the presence of architectural barriers, little teacher training on disability and inclusion, inadequate teaching materials and sports equipment, strong stigma and lies. Children with disabilities are often confined to their home or to special schools and are segregated from the rest of society.
Among the population, the employment rate for people with disabilities is 45.5%, compared to 58% for people without disabilities. Limited access to the labour market is the result of a low level of skills of young people with disabilities (who often fail to access vocational training opportunities), discriminatory practices among employers and inaccessible working environments.
For children with epilepsy and autism who are subject to inadequate diagnosis and treatment the situation is even worse. Epilepsy medications are often in short supply, there are only two paediatric neurologists in the country, and staff are not trained to recognise and better manage these conditions. There is no centre for autism in the Copperbelt, while in Lusaka there are only a few private clinics. The level of stigma is very high: epilepsy is often considered a mental illness or the result of witchcraft. Medicine is therefore often combined with the use of traditional methods. Children with autism, for example, are tied up because nobody knows how to manage them.
To address these problems and guarantee children with disabilities a dignified life in their communities, work must be done with teachers in local schools, doctors, families and communities. This project will enable children and young people with disabilities to physically access school and recreational spaces, to learn more easily thanks to disability-specific teaching methods and to study and play with their mates without disabilities; a widespread awareness-raising campaign will encourage families to send children with disabilities to school, and this will in turn reduce any discriminatory practices. Young people will also have the chance to access new agricultural vocational courses and new job opportunities run by local partners or promoted by other employers. Lastly, children with autism and epilepsy will be followed in dedicated facilities by specially trained medical personnel and, thanks to extensive awareness-raising, will be less discriminated against.
Carried out in collaboration with the Africa Call Organization and the Pope John XXIII Association, the project aims to achieve four goals:
Purchase a basketball for inclusive tournaments
Contribute to the purchase of medicines for children with epilepsy
Support the purchase of wheelchair accessible desks
Contribute to the construction of a toilet for the disabled at school