January 16, 2023

Building Resilience for Children with Disability in Zimbabwe

UNICEF Country Representative in Zimbabwe Dr. Tajudeen Oyewale

People with disabilities are most often excluded particularly children, from participating in opportunities in their respective communities.

More than two decades of socioeconomic challenges in Zimbabwe, children with disabilities are among the most marginalized and under-represented groups of children. This has been largely due to current status quo and environmental barriers including stigma and discrimination, are often excluded from mainstream health, education, legal support and other social services which are a constitutional right of every child.

However, the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Zimbabwe Country Office determined in making a mark through the creation of a sustainable disability-inclusive environment for all CWDs by means of providing research, capacity development, policy dialogue and advocacy.

UNICEF Country Representative in Zimbabwe Dr. Tajudeen Oyewale noted that, their partnership with Midlands State University (MSU) is committed to providing effective, inclusive, child and gender-sensitive policy formulation and facilitation in national development.

“As UNICEF, we want to advance the use of knowledge to inform policy, programmes and give a platform where the work that is being done by the University can inform change.

“UNICEF’s global goal is to ensure that we put in place systems, policy and action in support of the government towards attaining the rights of children and children with disability.

“Children with disability face a lot of barriers to access social services such as health, nutrition, education, sanitation and even economic opportunities, therefore, the data that will be gathered in this partnership will inform policies and programmes that affect children and children with disability.

“This conference will double our effort in understanding the reality and situation of children with disability” said Dr. Oyewale.

Moreover, Research Council of Zimbabwe (RCZ) Board Chairman Professor Zororo Muranda,  said for Zimbabwe to be able to develop sustainable solutions to pressing developmental challenges faced, particularly by children with disabilities, there is a need to support research for innovation and make use of dynamic new technologies to influence national policy.

“In pursuit of the national vision 2030 which seeks to attain an upper-middle economy through the National Development Strategy 1 (NDSI), research and development play a critical role in the attainment of this national agenda. This conference is a positive step in the right direction toward this big national goal.

RCZ highly commends the partnership between UNICEF and MSU in promoting research in Zimbabwe. I want to commit that as the Apex Statutory Body for research in Zimbabwe, RCZ will identify some papers at this conference that we will recommend for national funding,” he said.

In his remarks, MSU Vice Chancellor, Professor Victor Ngonidzashe Muzvidziwa highlighted that as a stakeholder-driven institution, MSU continues to value partnerships that prioritise children’s rights in Zimbabwe.

“We continue to interact in our quest to ensure that the broad objectives of ensuring that the rights of children are uplifted and we want to build resilience for children with disabilities in Zimbabwe and beyond.

“This conference is special in that we are pursuing the objectives of the MoU which are to pursue excellence in learning, research, scholarship, innovation, community service, technology transfer and dissemination of knowledge to further the rights of children and adolescents in Zimbabwe and beyond.

“This is the first step towards operationalizing the MoU and we will come up with something that will ensure that the very objectives of realizing the rights of children and adolescents is achieved.

“We do not have disability studies but our School of Social Work is rebranding its programmes to involve issues to do with disability and we will continue to live according to our motto or remaining the University of first choice.

“We are laying the foundation and strengthening the rights of children with disabilities and in SADC region we are set to become the centerpiece in terms of advancing the rights of children and nobody will be left behind,” said Professor Muzvidziwa.

MSU, UNICEF and RCZ recently held an inaugural two-day conference from the 28th to the 29th of November on building resilience for children with disability in Zimbabwe at the University’s Gweru Main Campus.

MSU and UNICEF Zimbabwe signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the 25th August 2022.

This conference is running under the theme, “(Re)imagining a Better World Post-COVID-19 for Children with Disabilities”.

The conference also includes delegates from Mkoba Teachers College, Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, National Council of Disabled Persons of Zimbabwe.

MSU representatives who attended the conference included Pro Vice-Chancellor Research, Innovation and Industrialisation, Professor Grace Mugumbate, MSU Librarian, Ms. Nyarai Patience Chibanda, MSU Registrar, Mr. Tinashe Zishiri, Executive Director-Research and Innovation, Professor Laurine Chikoko, Assistant to the Vice Chancellor Professor Hazel T. Ngoshi, Director of Marketing and Communications, Mrs. Mirirai Mawere, leading community medicine specialist Professor Davison Munodawafa, Executive Directors, Executive Deans, and MSU staff.