‘They’ve turned a blind eye to our plight’

‘They’ve turned a blind eye to our plight’

’Makhotso Rakotsoane

MAFETENG – THE Deputy Chairman of the Lesotho National Federation of the Disabled (LNFOD), Sam Letima, has accused the Ministry of Social Development of turning a blind eye to their plight.
Letima, addressing people at a Disability Day celebration last Friday, told the Social Development Minister Molahlehi Letlotlo that he was disappointed the ministry had failed to keep its promises of last year. Letima said last year during the commemoration of the day the minister promised that by December this year there will be laws and policies to protect people with disabilities. That promise has not been fulfilled, Letima said.

This year’s theme is “Achieving 17 Goals for the better future we want” and Letima said this dream will never come true if people with disabilities are left behind.
The theme of this year draws attention to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and how they can create a more inclusive and equitable world for people with disabilities.
Letima said although “it is a very good thing to celebrate this day” he is however not “pleased with the government of Lesotho.”
“The government promised that they will implement the disability law but till today there is no such a law,” Letima said.

He said when they celebrated the same event last year the minister confirmed that the government was “aware that there is no law for disabled people”.
“If they really wanted they could have done that (passed the law) because they do not have a valid reason why they are not passing it”.
For years LNFOD complained that there is no specific law that binds schools to have teachers that are equipped with skills to teach children with disabilities.
Such teachers are hired at the discretion of each school management not because of a legal requirement.
Also the law does not force a school to have books written in Braille for the blind.

The visually and speech impaired children require teachers who know sign language but the law does not require schools to have sign language classes for them.
This has caused many children with such disabilities to separate with their families for months, and sometimes years, when they go to special schools far away from their homes.
LNFOD has also been complaining that the law does not force owners or managers of public buildings to make them accessible to people with disabilities.
Last year the LNFOD executive director, Nkhasi Sefuthi, said his biggest wish was for parliament to review laws that discriminate against people with disabilities.
He said changes to such laws would help disabled people enjoy fundamental human rights and have equal opportunities.

“I yearn to see the next parliament supporting the disabled people’s organisations. These people who are living with disabilities need to be empowered,” he said.
Sephuthi said in most cases, the disabled people are often the last people to get services like education. He said people with intellectual disabilities are often marginalised by the health sector.  He added that there is lack of trained personnel to help people with disabilities to improve the quality of their lives in the rural areas.
Responding to Letima, Social Development Minister Molahlehi Letlotlo said people with disabilities are part of this nation and therefore the ministry will deal with their problems as a matter of urgency.

The minister said another challenge is that it is only a small percentage of Basotho who know how to communicate with deaf people.
He said that should be changed so that they will feel welcome.

Letlotlo said as a government they have created jobs for people with disabilities and they are going to continue doing that.
He said their wish is that in the next years those people would be working in the ministries of Lesotho.
The Mafeteng MP Temeki Tšolo said Basotho should know that disability is not inability because disabled people can do anything that any normal person can do.
Tšolo said it is high time that Basotho include these people in everything.

He urged Letlotlo to satisfy all the needs of these people because they elected them.  Tšolo said during election times “you will see these people voting”. “The ones who do not have wheelchairs will even be carried on wheel barrows just to go and vote. For that reason the government should realise that these people are important,” Tšolo said.

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