Keeping albino children safe

By: Sister Agnes Bwalya

Kawambwa Site is a project under Chalice, which caters for two visually impaired children’s schools, St. Mary’s is in the Luapula Province and St. Odilia is in the northern province of Zambia. The two schools have one site director (Sister Agnes) who co-ordinates all the activities of the sites.

Dealing with disabled children, or those with visual impairment, one should have a smiling face. Though totally blind pupils cannot see you, one’s facial smile picks what is in the heart, it is something that one needs to learn.

At first, my smile was not even felt by the parents, and society, because of their negative attitude. Whenever an albino child or teacher was passing, they would create a distance, and once asked, they could openly say, and I quote, “I’m afraid of having a disabled child.” My heart was filled with sorrow, and I could cry the whole night, my eyes always were full of tears. However, when I’m with the blind children we could laugh, dance and sing; the laughing, the dancing and the singing was from deep my heart and children’s heart.

Contributed photos
Sister Agnes Bwalya plays games with visually impaired children.

One day, I fainted when an albino child was kidnapped during the evening study and taken to the witchdoctor (very possibly to be murdered). An old woman was coming from the river, where she went to fetch water and she saw a huge man with a sisal sack with something inside. She saw the head of a person. The watchman reported and the police were alerted, luckily enough, the police officers passed through her home and got the news. She also helped in locating the house of the huge man.

The police officers used their skills and an albino child was found behind the house. The man was arrested and jailed for four years. The child is fine and still a student at a Kawambwa school.

My heart and mind could not believe and be convinced that a normal person can do such a thing. It came into my mind that a child protection policy should be formulated and followed in the two schools. It was created and learned in a hurry and under a critical situation.

Outreach programs were made and we asked the congregation and the diocese to help us provide a safe method of conveyance, as transporting the children safely is a critical challenge. St. Mary’s needs a bigger bus for moving children.

Albino children are always in danger of kidnapping, so security is very important as they travel to and from school. We started in our local environment district and provincial level and we also made use of our local radio station. We advocate for the importance of life of disabled children and also for an increased awareness of the Zambian disability Act of 2012.

As a site director, the issue of raising the wall fence at St. Mary’s Special School, and the construction of a wall fence at St. Odilia Special School are of great importance in the prevention of student kidnapping. We hope the fulfillment of this idea will be made possible by many people of good will. The walls are under construction, but the completion depends on funds available.

Visually impaired children are pictured playing jump rope with Sister Agnes Bwalya.

Travelling from Kawambwa to Mporokoso is not easy, the road (144 kilometres in total) is not tarred and full of pot holes. When I start off, for my monthly monitoring of the site, it often takes me 5-6 hours to reach Mporokoso on a good day and if public transport is used and the vehicle is not in good condition, one must stop to sleep on the way and arrive the following day. I reach the place very tired and when it comes to outreach in Mporokoso (family visits), it is not also easy, the land is very mountainous and sloppy. I walk, ride a bicycle and I do not mind where I sleep, what is in me is to see that, parents appreciate the education of their disabled children. Long distances for me is part of my prayer for people with good will who are trying to help the two schools that I sacrifice myself, so that God can soften their heart and help these disabled children.

How will a smile be on the faces of the albino and blind children? The answer is that a shared smile lies in your heart and in my heart. Let us all stand up and join hands. I need your smile. God bless.

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