ATTAINING tertiary education for students with disabilities is a rocky path that requires resilience and hard work to overcome. Four young women have thrived to become Zimbabwe’s first ever Deaf social workers.
Having endured many challenges in their journey towards tertiary education, Tendai Dondofema, Palmer Zengeni, Shalom Muzavazi and Theodora Gasva managed to make history as Zimbabwe’s first qualified Deaf Social workers.
The four young ladies started their tertiary journey in 2018 being the first class of Deaf students to enrol at Women’s University in Africa. The decision to venture into social work was synonymous as they had a passion to tackle disability issues and help others.
Shalom Muzavazi says getting to this level was not without its challenges but she pushed through the hurdles and made it.
During the first year of the course it was really challenging because I did not understand the big words and their meanings but as time went by I began to understand and I was catching up well.”
Tendai Dondofema adds that communication was one of the major challenges during her tertiary education.
“Most people at the University did not understand Sign Language and they were a few interpreters so I could mostly communicate with other Deaf students only”.
“During days when the interpreter was absent I would miss some of the notes and would fail to get assistance from other students as they did not understand Sign Language”.
The ladies enrolled at the university for a Diploma in Social work . Deaf Zimbabwe Trust offered to assist the ladies from the enrolment stage. The students were also provided with Sign Language interpreters and note takers in a bid to make their learning experience easier.
Access to tertiary education for children with disabilities in Zimbabwe is often unattainable as many colleges do not enrol them citing lack of adequate infrastructure as the impediment. Students are often left with little or no choice when they want to transition to tertiary institutions.
The students are excited to have finished their Diplomas and are ready to embark on their careers.
“I want to help other Persons with disabilities and I am looking forward to help reduce poverty through ensuring that persons with disabilities are given equal opportunities in education , sports and employment ”Tendai said.
Theodora Gasva added that she hopes that more tertiary institutions enrol students with disabilities for all children to enjoy their right to education.
“I hope that many colleges will accommodate students with disabilities so that we all have equal employment opportunities.” She added that more people should learn Sign Language to enable ease of communication in different sectors.
Meanwhile, Deaf Zimbabwe Trust (DZT) Executive Director,Executive Director Barbra Nyangairi said, “Deaf Zimbabwe Trust assisted the students with sign language interpreters and notetakers. Access to higher education is not easy for persosn with disabilities as they face a number of barriers which include communication barriers, lack of disability friendly infrastructure and sometimes even attitudinal barriers by the college staff towards disability.”