Cornelius Gudo (18) stands tall as he narrates his ordeal on how he was electrocuted by a naked electric cable at the tender age of nine and consequently lost some toes and his left arm, which had to be amputated following the unfortunate incident.
BY TINOTENDA MUNYUKWI
The student at Jairos Jiri at one time thought he would never live to fulfil his dreams again in 2008 when he was forced out of his former school in Sanyati, has since met new opportunity from the time he joined the institution for children living with disabilities.
“I discovered that I was actually good in athletics when I came here, after being told that it was the only place where I could fit and get an education based on some special needs which I had developed,” he said.
“I am now focusing on athletics and I have met opportunities to travel to South Africa for competitions. I hope to emulate people like Elliot Mujaji, who has inspired me quite a lot,” said Gudo.
At the moment, Gudo is doing his Ordinary Levels and the feeling of having one arm according to him, does not diminish his intellectual capacity in any way, and he is determined to study engineering at university.
“The fact that I enjoy sport does not mean I do not like academic work, because I love it so much and soon after I do my advanced level, I really want to study engineering at university and I know and believe I can achieve this just like anybody else,” he said.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe provides for the rights, welfare and rehabilitation of disabled persons, however, people living with disabilities continue to face challenges in accessing fair career and education opportunities.
A 2014 study by the National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped reported that only 2% of people with disabilities are employed in the public sector and that 7% are in employment at all.
The National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped further reported that 52% of disabled children have no access to education and basic facilities such as toilets.
Jairos Jiri Southerton Children’s Centre in Harare is one of the few specialised schools in the country that are fully implementing their mandate to try and keep the hopes of disabled children alive despite all these worrying statistics, through offering specialist education for some form of disability.
Children like Gudo have treasured this rare opportunity and they are putting it to good use, in order to fully realise their potential within their respective areas of endeavour.
Jairos Jiri national executive director, Wilson Ruvere, said the thrust of the institution is premised upon fighting for inclusion and opportunity for children living with disabilities, underlining that these youngsters have the potential to even outdo their peers in everything and their disability does not at all impede them.
“What we have done is to make sure that we fight for equal opportunities for our children, who are here and some in ordinary schools.
“We want them integrated and included in everything which other children do in education and sports, so we are, therefore, fighting hard to achieve this,” Ruvere said.
For an institution of 204 pupils, one cannot doubt the efforts being invested at Jairos Jiri in building a future and brewing hope for its students, who in certain cases have been rejected by relatives and friends.
A young girl at the institution Nyarai Banda, who was born crippled with both legs unable to support her body and is using clutches said she is optimistic about the future and believes one day she will realise her dream of becoming an accountant.
“We are happy here and we are also well-looked after, now I know that through this opportunity that we have been given, I am going to become an accountant one day and help the whole nation with my skills,” she said with a big smile on her face.
With evolving technology and mechanisation, students with disabilities have been offered a lifeline because many jobs in which people living with disability failed to qualify for based on their compromised physical ability, are now in fact open to anyone who has the intellectual ability to operate a machine just by the click of a button.
“From where we come from in the car manufacturing industry, better machines are being developed and, therefore, disability is no longer inability and these people can do anything just like everyone else,” Zimoco marketing manager, Louisa Evans, said while handing over $2 000 donation to Jairos Jiri.