National Disability advocate, Shirley Keoagile, has called on government and public service unions to end their impasse for the benefit of disabled students in the country.
Keoagile said the six-week-old strike has badly affected the health and education of students housed at different centers in the country.
“This is the sixth week into the strike and students have not been learning, of which disabled students need special education, attention and more time to learn for them to pass their examinations,” she said. “We cannot be assured of any good results this year from our students if this strike continues.”
She said that most students’ health has also been affected since the nurses are on strike and the disabled students have no one to attend to them. “Some of the students take treatment everyday and there is no one to give or remind them to take their treatment, ultimately compromising the student’s health,” she said.
Keoagile criticized the neglect by the government and public service unions for not notifying disabled students about the strike, considering the challenge faced by these students.
“The disabled students constitute the blind, deaf, dump and the mentally challenged as such we expect the government and public service unions to relate information about the ongoing strike in a way people with disabilities can understand,” she said.
She expressed discontent over the neglect by Minister of Education and Skills Development, Pelonomi Venson Moitoi, for disregarding disabled students.
“The minister went around addressing rioting students and overlooked students with disabilities, we don’t understand why the Minister chose to ignore the disabled students,” she said.
Keoagile said people with disabilities are part of society and should be integrated with others in society.
“In as much as the rioting students have grievances they want addressed, the disabled students also have their grievances, which they want the government to address.”
In addition, Keoagile said the poor sign language interpreting on BTV has become a major setback for people with disabilities.
“We cannot even make a follow up on what will be reported on the news because the interpreters are distorting and compromising the information; we do not understand anything,” she said.
She called upon government to look into the issue and find ways to fix this communication breakdown.
“The strike has left us wondering if there is a future for the disabled students in Botswana,” Keoagile said.