Despite laws prohibiting the discrimination of people with disabilities, children with special needs still experience difficulty in accessing adequate education and healthcare resources.
The Ugo Edward-Dibiana Down Syndrome Foundation, a non-profit organisation, made this known in a statement issued to commemorate the 2023 World Down Syndrome Day.
The Co-founder of the Foundation, Edward Dibiana, lamented the distressing challenges in getting schools to accept children or wards with special needs in the country.
Mr Dibiana said children with special needs face lots of stigmatisation and discrimination in Nigeria, a country with laws prohibiting such acts.
“Despite this law which was supposed to protect the interest of people living with disability, parents of children with special needs still experience difficult and distressing challenges in getting schools to accept their children or wards, as many schools in Nigeria still reject these children on account of their conditions,” he said.
“That’s a sad example of obvious discrimination that the law prohibits.”
He noted that in some cases, children living with special needs are made to pay extra fees, much higher than those paid by their peers in the same class, just for them to have access to education, a strong violation of the discrimination law.
The Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018 was signed into law in 2019 to meet four goals for people with disabilities; equal opportunities, full participation in the community, sufficient living, and economic independence.
The Act prohibits any form of discrimination against persons on the ground of disabilities and imposes penalties for breaches. However, many persons, living with disabilities have lamented the continuous violations of the provisions of the law.
World Down Syndrome Day
World Down Syndrome Day is marked globally on 21 March annually to highlight the challenges faced by people living with Down Syndrome and how government and the society could help to assuage their plight.
Down Syndrome (or Trisomy 21) is a condition in which a person has an extra chromosome. People living with the syndrome are often impacted by diverse health challenges including internal organ defects and intellectual disability.
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According to Down Syndrome International, roughly half of the children born with this condition would have heart defects that would require surgery and adequate post-surgery medicare.
Sadly in Nigeria, parents are made to bear this cost without support from the government, contrary to the provisions of the law.
Mr Dibiana also lamented that cultural and social prejudices and stigmatisation of children with special needs have not abetted despite the good intentions of the law.
He said the perception that children with special needs are carriers of bad luck or possessed by some demons is still prevalent in Nigerian society.
He said the beauty and credibility of every democracy are often judged by how it protects the weak and the disadvantaged demography against tendencies that threaten to hinder their well-being, dignity, and survival in society.
“For instance, sometimes children with special needs in Nigeria are tragically ‘allowed’ to die, sadly, due to circumstances that are interwoven in lack of access to healthcare, cultural/religious prejudices, ignorance and incapacitating economic conditions of many indigent parents.”
He urge the Nigerian government to take steps to protect this vulnerable demography by ensuring strict compliance with laws that were made to protect their rights and interests.
This, he said can be achieved by compelling relevant government agencies to escalate enlightenment and sensitisation about the provisions of the law across the nation to promote compliance and curb discrimination against people with disability.
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