Reforming Lesotho’s policy towards people with disabilities

YESTERDAY Lesotho joined the rest of the world in remembering Frenchman Louis Braille for his invention of the literacy for the blind citizens of the world.

While we celebrated this day I recall painfully that our country’s policy and practice has neglected so many of our people with disabilities.

This happens despite the fact that Lesotho has signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Exclusion of persons with disabilities from many areas of human development is still perceived to be an inevitable fact of life. Inaccessibility of educational facilities, sport and health facilities is still in vogue in Lesotho.

Language used against people with disabilities in Lesotho is one which encourages placement of people with disabilities in positions relegate to the levels behind the entire human society, to cite but a few examples.

However, thanks to the important fact that the world has become a global village, we have so many role models to follow in terms of the current internationally acceptable trends on inclusion.

Looking in the arena of the developing countries, China plays a very significant role as far as examples of inclusion of persons with disabilities is concerned. In this article, I propose to cite a few examples effectuated by sport to the Chinese people with disabilities.

At the end of last year, I had an opportunity to visit the Peoples’ Republic of China, and I learned important lessons which I think need to be shared with the people of Lesotho.

Firstly, the 2008 Paralympic Games held in Beijing, China, is one of the important milestones in the lives of the Chinese persons with disabilities.

Nineteen million people with disabilities living in China were included into different facets of human development in their country.

The inspiration people got from the games has left the government of China with no other option than to recognise the equality of people with disability in China.

Institutions were built for persons with disabilities. Educational opportunities that ensure that people with disabilities are as equal as anybody else in the Chinese society are currently offered to people with disabilities.

The performance of the Chinese Paralympic teams in all world events quite clearly demonstrates this significant change of policy and practice on the part of people and the Chinese government, an example which has to be emulated by the people and government of Lesotho.

Secondly, the legacy left by the said games is also momentous to not only the people of China but the entire world.

Just outside the Olympic Stadium shaped like a bird’s nest in Beijing, there stands a wall which has all the names of the medallists of the Beijing Paralympic Games.

This is an indelible mark which will remind every citizen of China and the world of the excitement and inspiration brought by people with disabilities in this beautiful city of the world.

It stands there as a sign to remind citizens of China that disability is an important fact of life not an indication of the inconsistencies of life.

It therefore logically follows that inclusion of persons with disabilities in all national policy and practice is a necessity that must not be forgotten at all material times of human development.

It is this important stride made by the Chinese government that must be a beacon that our government must also follow in recognising people with disabilities in Lesotho.

The people of Lesotho must also learn a lot from the people of China living in our country on issues of human development.

If truth be told, it does not help us as a nation to blame all the Chinese living in Lesotho for the fraud of a few irresponsible Chinese businessmen selling poor quality or expired products.

As the wise would suggest, let us not paint them all with one brush. So let us be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Xenophobia has not defeated poverty. Living in harmony has helped to shape a better world for us all.

Human solidarity effectuated development and transcends barriers of all kinds.

Perhaps it is at this important time that Lesotho and China should think about specific steps to help the peoples of our two countries to know each other better, among which it may be a good idea, for instance, to bring a Confucius Institute or Confucius Classroom into educational institutions of Lesotho.

This will provide a platform for cultural exchange and information sharing about the traditions and customs of these two nations.

This will gradually enhance mutual understanding and strengthen the bonds of brotherhood between us and the people of China.

As the wise Chinese would say, it will be the first step in our one thousand mile journey of making the world a habitable place to live for us all.

I conclude this brief note by emphasising that China is one of the best role models for inclusion of people with disabilities in all facets of human development.

In my view, the United Nations invented the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities but the Chinese government is perfecting its implementation.

It logically follows that it takes government’s effort to ensure success in this important human endeavour.

Needless to once again reiterate that dedication of energy and effort to the course of people with disabilities by the government is an essential component of equalisation of opportunities for people with disabilities.

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