Writes Marlvin Ngiza
25-year-old Shawn Michael Homera, who recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science Honour’s degree in Mathematics at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) has advised young people with disabilities to set education as their priority saying that life with some academic qualifications offers better opportunities.
The graduate revealed that education is a vibrant empowerment tool and would be one of the best ways to eliminate the donor and dependence syndrome for people with disabilities.
Sharing his journey prior to his success, Homera said that the journey was not easy as he faced many challenges during his studies which included mobility challenges and accessibility-related challenges while expressing that determination had seen him hitting the purple patch.
“It is really worrisome to have a disability and not educated at the same time. Some believe that we should beg to get a living but that is a wrong belief. As for me, with this achievement, I think the sky is now the only limit and I want to encourage the disability community to pursue education in order to fulfill their dreams. I encourage those people who take care of us to give us the opportunity and prove that we are capable of doing exploits.
“We did not choose our conditions but we can fight and work hard to achieve many things in what seems to be a journey of impossibilities,” said Homera.
He applauded local tertiary institutions that have been accommodating people with disabilities to ensure that no one was being left behind although he stressed that issues of discrimination of people with disabilities, lecture rooms inaccessibility, and employment challenges needed to be addressed.
“The journey was not easy at all. Firstly a change in the environment affected me during my first year at UZ but many thanks to UZ disability support services and the mathematics department for supporting me and great thanks to many friends who made my life easy. I will explain some of the problems. These include the inaccessibility of lecturer rooms. The administration block at UZ was not accessible to physically challenged people so I had to send someone if I needed anything.
“One of the challenges is employment and attachment. In my third year, I had to write a research project in order to proceed with my degree program. There is still discrimination against people with disabilities. The government should help us to address this problem. In terms of campus problems, the UZ is trying very much to engage all of us by providing people with disabilities with a conducive environment.
“For example, there is a reserved section in the library for us and there is the DSS library designated for us only. Also, DSS students have helpers if they need anything,” he added.
A large population of individuals with disabilities are children and young people. According to UNICEF, as many as 600,000 children are living with some form of disability in Zimbabwe. About 53% of the people with disabilities population in Zimbabwe became disabled before the age of 20 years.