By MALAIKA AITARU
Asiimwe Annette, oldest of her seven siblings is the only visually impaired person in her family. Through her family’s efforts in primary four, she was awarded a sponsorship with Uganda National Association of the Blind (UNAP), which has been responsible for her education to date. The 21-year-old who was born blind describes herself as a fighter and has hopes and dreams of becoming a very influential person in the future.
Annette is currently pursuing a Diploma in Early Childhood Development at Nakawa Disabled Vocational Training Institute in her final year, conducting her internship at Salama School for the blind.
Her education started at Kassambya Das Primary School in Mubende district and Sir Apollo kaggwa in Mukono for her secondary education. She attempted to join Iganga primary teachers college, but all efforts were halted because she had not passed English language, which was a prerequisite for the Diploma in Education. Disappointed, she was encouraged by her mother to join Nakawa training institute to pursue different ambition.
Being the only disabled person in her class, Annette often gets less time and attention from the teachers who go through the syllabus fast and focus on the writing on the blackboards which makes her lag behind. Being a day scholar, she also finds it hectic to move to school daily from Mutungo and back. Some days she is forced to miss lectures due to lack of transport. On the days she can afford to attend lectures, taxi conductors often cheat her of her change.
The inaccessibility and lack of braille papers (a ream goes for thirty-five thousand Ugandan shillings) is also a barrier. Amidst all this, she cannot afford personal items like sanitary towels, pushed to improvise by using pieces of her clothes or staying home until her period is done.
Being the fighter that she is, Annette says she will not let any hindrances stop her and calls upon the general public to provide them (Salama school) with Braille machines, accept the disabled people in the community and stop discrimination against them. She also urges her fellow disabled brothers and sisters to appreciate themselves because they are a gift and blessing from God because they were created out of love.
According to the African Journal of Disability, Uganda has the highest number of elected representatives with a disability. The Government, according to the National Policy on Disability is mandated to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities and the Constitution of Uganda stipulates the need to empower people with disabilities. However, a lot of mismanagement of resources and poor implementation of these policies has stood in the way of service delivery for PWDs in relation to the provision of assistive devices such as hearing aids and Braille machines. Annette is one of the 2% of the PWDs in Uganda who have no access to such devices and yet are expected to compete on the same level. It is important to create opportunities for the inclusion of PWDs in the social, economic and developmental aspects of the country.