In a big, quiet classroom, a young girl sits at the corner as she struggles to decipher a complicated maths problem. A teacher stands beside her, offering a steady stream of encouragement.
Just as no two children are ever alike, teachers have to place special attention to those with special needs so that they remain at the same level with the rest of the students in the classroom.
According to verywell.com, special needs are commonly defined by what a person cannot do; the milestones unmet, foods banned, activities avoided and experiences denied, among other things.
These minuses, according to the website, hit families hard and may make special needs seem like a tragic designation. It adds that a lot of parents will always mourn their child’s lost potential and many conditions become more troubling with time.
Hope for the Blind is a local non-governmental organisation (NGO) that was established in 2007 to ensure that people with disabilities who are not very advantaged financially, should still be in school, achieve and become self reliant.
The organisation does this by paying their school fees in various secondary schools across the country through corporate sponsors.
“The schools we work with identify students with special needs in need of financial assistance, as they join them at the beginning of academic years. They also give us villages and traditional authorities (T/As) they come from, which we then visit to ascertain their need for financial assistance. If we are convinced they need it, we help pay their school fees through the corporate partners we have,” says Hastings Bwande, Hope for the Blind executive director.
He notes that a lot of people with disabilities, especially the blind, are just walking about the streets in cities and towns begging and they would like to reduce the number of such by giving them an education so that they become self reliant.
There are currently 222 students across the country under the wings of Hope for the Blind; with different special needs, including visual impairments, hearing impairments, physical disabilities as well as albinism.
Stella Maris Secondary School is one of the schools whose students with special needs are benefiting from the initiative.
The institution’s head mistress, Sister Catherine Chikadza says out of the 520 students the institution has, 16 have special needs.
“We have 16 students with special needs and Hope for the Blind has been helping us to ensure that they achieve. We are not afraid to enroll students with special needs because we know that they will be covered.
“As much as it has not been easy to effectively cater for the students as they need a lot attention, we are proud of how they perform in class,” said Chikadza.
Bwande appealed to the students getting assistance from corporate companies under Hope for the Blind not to look down on themselves, but aim high, arguing that this would also motivate the financiers to reach out to others in need.
Hope for the Blind continues to reach out to parents with children that have disabilities to send them to school and not to keep them at home.
Among other companies working with Hope for the Blind are Puma Energy, Ninkawa Transport, Fisd Fund, FDH Bank, Airtel, CDH Bank, Ecobank, Manica Malawi, Nico Asset Managers, Carlsberg Malawi and TNM. n