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Statement on the possible closure of COPOTA Schools for the Blind and workshops in Masvingo
Godfrey Majonga, National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH)
October 31, 2012

National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH) is unsettled by the impact of the possible closure of one of its long standing and prominent member organization, Copota Schools for the Blind and Workshops in Zimuto, Masvingo. This follows a report in The Herald of 1 October, 2012 that the Dutch Reformed Church in Zimbabwe run institution is in dire financial straits and faces possible closure due to a shortage of working capital that had seen the institution downscaling its operations to negligible levels.

The closure of Copota, an institution which is nationally and regionally acclaimed as a beacon of hope for people with disabilities in the country and has churned thousands of students who have gone on to become university graduates and skilled employees able to contribute meaningfully to the development of the country and raise the profile of disability, would be a sad indictment on the nation of Zimbabwe as a whole and its commitment and support to educational excellence and development. For a country that has achieved the pole position in literary rankings in Africa, and near universal primary education for all, allowing Copota to face closure would be a negation of the inestimable value that Zimbabwe places on education, which principles and values have propelled the country to international renown in the educational field.

The issue of lack of working capital aside, the non payment of the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) by the educational authorities to Copota has to be blamed squarely for the unsavoury situation that this ailing institution, which was well on its way to becoming a regional centre of educational excellence, is now faced with. Copota, a boarding institution, is home to over 300 children with disabilities, including those with visual, hearing and physical impairments. The majority of these children is from low-income backgrounds and rely on the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) facility from the government to sustain their education. However, since the beginning of the year, the BEAM facility has not been forthcoming and this has resulted in the school not being able to meet its financial obligations. It has to be borne in mind that Copota is not the only disability institution that relies on BEAM funding to sustain the education of children with disabilities: a number of disability schools are facing the same predicament and the closure of Copota could trigger a domino effect that could result in a number of disability schools closing. There is a compelling need to move with speed and resolve to avert an educational disaster of epic proportions and this is a situation that NGOs across the spectrum, corporate organizations, government and the society at large should be seized with.

Children are mankind's greatest asset; not only do they keep the human race alive - they also perpetuate the transmission of the body of knowledge, and hence development, from generation to generation. They are our most enduring legacy, guarantors of our civilisation, past and present, and need to be nurtured with meticulous care and accorded all the support necessary so that they can reach their full potential and contribute meaningfully towards the realisation of a world fit for all. The disability sector would like to urge every right thinking member of society to play their part in creating an enabling environment for children, especially children with disabilities.

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