By Josephine Mugiyo

By its nature the teaching profession requires patience and many teachers go that extra mile to ensure their students grasp concepts. It requires even more dedication and selflessness when one has to teach children with multiple disabilities, particularly when they have not been formally trained to handle such situations. ZBC Newsonline visited Margareta Hugo school in Zimuto commonly known as COPOTA to speak with some of the teachers.

It is not the ordinary 8am-5pm job where the rules are laid out and one is guided by their professional training to execute their job. When it comes to special needs education, one is often trained to deal with various forms of disability where each child has one nature of disability.

In Onai Mupadzanhunha’s case, she has to live with three disabilities, given that she’s deaf-blind. There are others with cases similar to hers at her school. Not a single tertiary institution in the country offers training in dealing with cases like hers. When her teacher is not around, as was the case when we visited COPOTA school,  this tends to affect the learner.

The teachers at the school had to come up with a language, a body touch language to enable communication with Onai. The acting head at COPOTA primary, Prisca Mutazu says tertiary institutions need to urgently consider training teachers who can work with children with multiple disabilities.

Fig 1 Onai Mupadzanhunha

“With children like Onai she is living with multiple disabilities . We have about four children with the same predicament, but the teachers actually have to come up with their own language. They have to go that extra mile because at the tertiary institutions they are not taught to deal with children with multiple disabilities,” explained Mutazu

An ordinary day in the life of a teacher dealing with children with multiple disabilities requires doing extraordinary work to give these little ones basic life skills. Netsai Murevererwa is one of the teachers who has spent most of her life dealing with such situations and she says it takes more than the call of duty, it is basically a labour of love and motherly love instincts that often carries the day when patience is running out.

“This job requires patience , it requires you to actually draw into your maternal instincts, It’s not easy but I love doing my job,” said Murevererwa. Murevererwa also received basic training on special needs and she is also among those advocating for tertiary institutions that offer special needs education to include multiple disabilities in their training programmes.

It is not an easy task that the men and women at the schools have to perform. Their satisfaction hardly comes from their earnings but in knowing that they have made a difference in the lives of the children they teach.

Now despite her multiple disabilities Onai has blossomed into a hardworking young lady. She produces handicraft and is always working to supply her ready market and this more than anything brings a smile on the faces of the men women who have worked with her from infancy.

Kumbirai Mashava , a teacher at CAPOTA, reveals that Onai produces beautiful handicraft pieces, which sell like hotcakes.
“When we go to shows like the disability expo , the Masvingo Agriculture show, her products will actually be on demand,” she noted.

The teachers remain committed to doing their work, but the calls for tertiary institutions to shift focus on training that includes children with multiple disabilities have been amplified and one hopes that the needs of these uniquely gifted children can be met.