Fifty-four years after independence and close to a century after formal education was introduced in Malawi, visually impaired students cannot study science subjects at secondary school.
Tawonga Chisale and others have to go out of classroom and find refuge in the resource room to pave way for Physical Science and Mathematics teachers to teach sighted students.
“When it’s time for Science subjects, especially Mathematics, Chemistry and Physical Science, I go out because teachers are not disability friendly,” says Tawonga, a Form One student at Mzuzu Government Secondary School.
Chapter IV of Malawi’s Republican Constitution provides in section 25 that all persons are entitled to education.
To meet this constitutional requirement, government and other stakeholders put efforts in the education sector to ensure that every person has access to education.
Some of the amenities include construction of more secondary schools as well as upgrading of existing ones.
This is surely a move in the right direction as year 2030 approaches; the time when the country shall evaluate how it implemented Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number four.
The goal, which is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, is supported by Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) III key priority area number two.
Both instruments emphasise equitable and inclusive education.
However, Tawonga and fellow visually impaired students feel sidelined by virtue of not being included in science lessons.
“I don’t learn science subjects because one day when I complained to one science teacher that when they are teaching they should consider students with disabilities, he slapped me,” Tawonga explains.
From that point, the 15-year-old says she stopped learning science subjects though she knows their importance in life.
The country has centres for special needs education in some parts of the country.
However, it is not uncommon to hear that a school for the visually impaired has closed for lack of food supplies or Braille in the course of a term.
These challenges sometimes extend to national examinations where issues like no examination papers in Braille or large print or no invigilators for candidates with visual impairment crop up.
It is known fact that the current secondary school curriculum is science heavy.
This is because the goal of the Malawi education sector is to produce a generation that would come up with scientific solutions to the challenges that affect the country’s socio-economic development.
To meet this goal, government invests heavily in the education sector as evidenced by the establishment of Nalikule College of Education to train more science teachers.
Additionally, with support from stakeholders and donor agencies such as JICA, government is constructing laboratories in secondary schools across the country.
But to Tawonga and others, such efforts are meaningless if they do not include needs of visually impaired students.
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