Thursday, December 3, 2020

Face to face with Down Syndrome

“I just want to be treated like everyone else. I am who I am and I’m proud of it. I’m a hard worker a good person, and I care about people. I also want to go to UB (University of Botswana).Even though I have Down syndrome; my life is a lot like yours. I read books, watch TV and I listen to music with my friends. I think about the future, like having my own family and a normal job. And I get along with my friends and relatives,” says Gorata.

Gorata goes to ‘I Am’, a school for children with special needs based in Tlokweng. She and two of her colleagues, accompanied by parents from the Down Syndrome Association of Botswana were at the GetBucks Botswana office on Thursday to receive a P10, 300 donations on behalf of the association.

“As a preferred financial services provider to the Botswana Teachers Union, we understand the importance of educating our children,” said GetBucks Executive Director, Marthin de Kock. “The plight of special needs children is especially close to our hearts and therefore we believe that the efforts of the Down Syndrome Association of Botswana will make a difference.”

Deputy Chairperson, Binta Tobedza says the association continues to engage government through the Ministry of Education and Skills Development to create a conducive learning environment for children with Down syndrome.

“Besides specialized training for teachers we also continue to call on the government to consider an inclusive education which enables children with the condition to learn from those without it,” Tobedza says.

She says this helps to stimulate their brains and enhance their learning process. Tobedza says they are also working hard to de-mystify the condition and break the habit of stigma attached to people with Down syndrome.

Because of this stigma, she says, some mothers end up locking up their children and hiding them away from the rest of the community. “New mothers find it a challenge to accept they have given birth to a child with the condition and as such they (the association) often provide some emotional support and counseling.”

She says in some cases fathers refuse to accept such children blaming it on the mother’s genes.
Although she could not provide an alternative Setswana terminology for Down Syndrome Marina Ngwako, Secretary says they find the commonly used ‘Setlhogwana’ demeaning.

The association currently cares for 35 children in and around Gaborone but Ngwako says with more support and resources they can be able to cover the rest of the country and create more awareness about the condition.

Down syndrome occurs when there is an extra copy of chromosome 21. This form of Down syndrome is called Trisomy 21. The extra chromosome causes problems with the way the body and brain develop.

Down syndrome symptoms vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. However, children with Down syndrome have a widely recognized appearance. The head may be smaller than normal and abnormally shaped. For example, the head may be round with a flat area on the back. The inner corner of the eyes may be rounded instead of pointed.

Other symptoms may include; excess skin at the nape of the neck
Flattened nose, separated joints between the bones of the skull (sutures), single crease in the palm of the hand, small ears, small mouth, upward slanting eyes, and wide short hands with short fingers.

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The Telegraph December 2

Digital edition of The Telegraph, December 2, 2020.