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The Rights of Children with Disabilities in AfricaJune 16th is a day commemorated by many in Africa. It marks the anniversary of the Soweta Uprising that occurred in 1976, where nearly 20,000 students in South Africa protested against the poor quality of education and the right to be taught in their own language. The uprising resulted in the death of an estimate between 170 to 600 people who were either shot by the police or stoned to death.
Since 1991, this date has been celebrated in order to bring awareness to the need to improve the quality of education for children in Africa. This year the theme of the celebration was The rights of children with disabilities: The duty to protect, respect, promote and fulfill."
The plight of persons with disabilities in Africa has long been a cause for concern. It is estimated that 5-10% of the children are disabled. Many disabilities are caused by illnesses such as measles, meningitis, and cerebral malaria. They also stem from a lack of pre- and neo-natal care and an inadequate diet.
A study in Madagascar showed that only 11 percent of children with disabilities actually attend school. Those who do attend lack the proper accomodations needed for them to learn and often are faced with being ridiculed and bullied by their peers.
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) put out a call to everyone to help improve the quality of life for these children. "Children living with disabilities continue to be the most excluded among all groups of children in Africa. Only a small portion of them are in school, and far fewer receive the adequate inclusive education they need," said the Chief of UNICEF's Disability Unit, Rosangela Berman Bieler.
A good example of how this can be done is in Rwanda. The government has provided specialized education raising the number who receive such education from 632 in 2000 to around 17,000 in 2010. In Ghana, Guinea and Lesotho similar heights have been reached.
Agnes Kabore Ouattara, the Chairperson of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child said, "I encourage the adoption of legislative measures to improve the socio-economic well-being of children living with disabilities and the implementation of protective and rehabilitative programmes."
UNICEF is supporting efforts in other countries to train teachers and obtain learning materials necessary to train more children.