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Silenced voices roar: Unveiling struggles of disabled children

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Audio News

Ntsoaki Motaung

World Children’s Day, themed ‘Inclusion for every child’, resonated profoundly in Lesotho this year.

A platform facilitated by Help Lesotho and backed by UNICEF allowed children from Leribe and Botha Bothe districts to articulate their concerns before the Minister of Gender, Youth, and Social Development, Pitso Lesaoana.

Representing disabled children, Ithabeleng Leneha from Botha Bothe brought to light the enduring hurdles they face, primarily in accessing crucial healthcare services.

Speaking on their behalf, Leneha revealed the absence of trained health professionals equipped to cater to children with disabilities, exposing a significant gap in essential care.

Education emerged as another battleground, with Leneha lamenting the lack of learning materials tailored for disabled children.

She raised poignant issues, underscoring the inhospitable environment that fails to meet their needs – lack of security, inaccessible toilets, and the persistent struggle to secure admission in schools unwilling to accept children with disabilities.

“The environment does not answer to our needs because there is no security, and toilets do not accommodate children with disabilities,” she said.

Her rallying cry for education near their homes rather than distant boarding schools echoed the desire for equal educational opportunities.

“We, like other children, have a right to go to school next to our homes and not to be sent to boarding schools far from our homes,” she said.

Leneha also stressed the urgent need for teacher capacity building to better equip them in handling the nuanced needs of children with disabilities.

Mamoletsane Khati, Country Director of Help Lesotho, illuminated the day’s purpose: a stage for children to voice their adversities, catalyzing collaborative efforts among various organizations to address their concerns.

Khati highlighted Help Lesotho’s commitment to fostering resilience and support among youth for sustainable livelihoods, even imparting crucial communication skills between children and their parents.

“Help Lesotho also provide children with live skills so that they can have even better communication with their parents,” she said.

UNICEF Lesotho Representative, Deepak Bhaskaran, underscored the significance of World Children’s Day in raising awareness about children’s rights and amplifying their voices, especially those from diverse backgrounds and disabilities.

Bhaskaran emphasised the crucial advocacy for health, education, and protection for every child, underscoring the need for safeguarding children’s rights across all communities.

“The other thing we do is to advocate for your health, education, and protection. We also promote child rights for every child from all the backgrounds as well as encouraging all the communities to make sure children’s rights are protected,” he said.

Minister Lesaoana acknowledged the progress in upholding children’s rights in Lesotho, citing legislative steps like the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act 2011.

He highlighted the collective responsibility to report any child abuse to the authorities, ensuring swift action against perpetrators.

“It is the responsibility of every parent to report abuse against any child to the police so that action against perpetrators can be taken,” he said.

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