There is something about Africa, something wild and untamed perhaps, which makes people from across the globe want to experience just a small piece of this great continent.
At the most southern edge of this land is my country, South Africa, neighbour to beautiful Namibia and tumultuous Zimbabwe. Struggling with poverty, corruption and lack of proper education, the entire African continent is struggling under a cloud of Third-World mentality, making it sometimes hard for disabled people to live a normal life.
Lack of funds, superstitions and lack of understanding are perhaps the greatest challenges disabled people face in African countries. Here in South Africa I am lucky, however slightly cynical about my luck.
It should not be a matter of chance for a disabled person to lead a normal and fulfilling life. No, it is a right.
I come from Gauteng, a northern province in South Africa.
Here we have a number or special schools, some for the physically disabled, some for the mentally disabled.
However good the care may be at these schools, most of the children, once finished with school, will never have a chance of finding a job and so will most likely never be able to support themselves. For a number of different reasons I spent my school years in normal schools, except one year where I was sent to one of these “special schools”.
Since I have Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a rare bone disease, I was accepted without being put on a waiting list. It was there I realised with horror the difference between main-stream schools and the so-called special schools. Of course I can only speak for South Africa and no other country, but it is reasonable to assume most other third world countries are in the same position regarding disabled children, and the disabled in general.
There is simply not enough money and funding for these children to get the education they need. Worst of all, it is accepted in society that these children, once they have grown up, will not work in the market place anyway. So why bother?
I left the school and continued and finished high school in a normal school where I regained my chance to have a future. Perhaps I am painting a bleak picture; there are some highlights in here, too. Great trouble is taken to ensure disabled people can enjoy safaris and out-rides as much as any other tourist.
I have been on a few of these trips, and it is truly breathtaking. Of course I know I take my surroundings for granted, an African sunset is something I can see every evening, and nature is woven into daily life so seamlessly that it becomes easy to forget other countries can only but imagine my view.
Perhaps I will stay in South Africa, perhaps one day I will move to a new country. It is hard to imagine a good future for the disabled in Africa, the beauty of the surroundings can be inspirational to a point, and then one must be realistic. Mentalities of governments, and the people, need to change before there can be any hope of a bright horizon.
Corruption needs to be destroyed throughout government channels, and superstitious minds who shun the different needs to be educated. Without these changes, it will still be just a matter of luck on whether or not a future for a disabled person living in Africa can be assured.
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