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Swaziland, 30 May 2013: Swazi children want more opportunities

© UNICEF/SZDA/Sibongiseni Mamba/2013
Visually impaired pupil of St Joseph's School in Swaziland reading from his braille at the launch of the SOWC Report held at his school.

By Sibongiseni Mamba

Manzini, Swaziland 30 May 2013 – Fanelo Shongwe is a visually impaired teenager, who attends school at St. Joseph’s High School in Manzini. 

Fanelo’s school, situated some ten kilometres from Swaziland’s second biggest city, is the only school in the kingdom that offers inclusive education. Fanelo will soon be graduating from high school soon and, like many of his peers, seek tertiary education. But he is not convinced that this will be possible. “One of my friends who completed school last year was rejected at a college early this. He did all he was supposed to do, filled in the forms, and even passed the interview, only to be told the college does not have the budget for his learning material. Then I ask myself, do I have a future?”

Speaking at the launch of the 2013 State of the World Children Report at his school, Fanelo said disability was not the problem. “Attitude and stigma are the biggest barriers preventing children with disabilities from enjoying their full rights.” All children have the right to education, protection and playing, regardless of their physical and health status, Fanelo said.

Despite all barriers, twelve year-old Sihle Mdziniso is hopeful of a better future for children with disabilities. “Tomorrow will be a better day,” he said in his touching poem. “Children like me will access shops! Blind children like me will access colleges. Deaf children will have a better communication link in our Swazi society. Tomorrow will be a better day, with no humiliation; with no discrimination, with zero obstacles. Tomorrow will be a better day!”

UNICEF Representative Rachel Odede, who officially launched the report, encouraged communities and development agencies to support families that take care of children with disabilities to ensure that such children have access to basic social services. “UNICEF is committed to working with parents, communities, families and the government to ensure that relevant policies are in place to provide equal rights to children and children with disabilities.”

She said the SOWC Report recognised that many countries were yet to ratify the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. “I am proud to say that Swaziland did so in 2012 when it ratified 29 conventions, one of them was actually on disabilities. I would like to congratulate the government and other key stakeholder who contributed to this effort,” she said.

Government remained committed to creating an environment that was conducive to the development and well-being of children, particularly those living with disabilities, through establishing policy and other systems, said Nhlanhla Nhlabatsi, the Director of the National Children’s Coordination Unit, an office under the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office.

Secretary General of the Federation of Organisations of the Disabled in Swaziland (FODSWA), Musa Makhanya praised the SOWC Report for reflecting issues faced by children with disabilities. “This is the first of its kind. For some time we have been trying to highlight the plight of children living with disabilities. This report is one of the signs that we are getting somewhere. 



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