21 March was chosen as the World Down Syndrome day to symbolize a third copy of the 21st chromosome in people with Down Syndrome. Bulawayo joined the world in celebrating the value, acceptance, and inclusion of people with down syndrome, wearing the down syndrome colours of blue and yellow. This year’s theme is: My friends, My community. Firstly an explanation on why it’s commemorated on the 21st of March. Down Syndrome (trisomy) occurs when an individual has full or partial 3rd copy of chromosome 21 (see 3/21). This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down Syndrome.
The occasion started a bit late of course, embracing our being Africans. Present was the MP for Bulawayo East Mrs Tabitha Khumalo, St George VI, Sibantubanye school, parents, teachers, and the general public. David Zulu, a representative from the Zimbabwe Down Syndrome Association applauded everyone for taking time to grace the event. However he was concerned by the never increasing number of attendees and how the day seems only to be important on the 21st of March only every year. He encouraged spreading of the word so as to increase the numbers. Picking from that, the MP also expressed her disappointment from the media houses which did not deem this a necessary gathering to attend. Only one journalist from chronicle covered the event. This was taken as an example of a setback in the inclusion of disability matters. If the media is not present to cover and spread the word then how are we going to spread the word? Soneni Gwizi was also a guest at the event and started off by inviting the audience to a 30 seconds dance off to Michelle William’s ‘if Jesus says yes nobody can say no.’ She then proceeded to encourage the teachers and parents to continue with the good work they are already doing. Soneni also encouraged especially the protection of the girl child as they are the most vulnerable from health hazards and abuse, they are also usually secluded from inclusion. Parent with children who have Down Syndrome also gave their testimonials on society, school and life in general. They are very positive people with such encouraging words.
What we picked from the commemoration was how inclusion kept on being mentioned by every speaker. This alone shows that there is still a long way to go in bridging the gap between preaching and blogging about inclusion and actually doing something about it. Disability is not inability, examples of children from attending schools who can actually do something despite their disabilities where given. There was a general concern on how society groups children with ‘special needs,’ secluding them from other children. This leaves them confused as some do not realize that they are disabled and hence have a lot of questions to their parents and teachers. Statistics also shows that most Disabled People’s Organizations (DPOs) are led by parents, with little or no assistance from the community. All that was being asked for was inclusion, not pity. Everyone has a disability, difference is that most of ours are not visible. One last thing, we saw a catchy phrase that we would like to share with you, it goes: Keep Calm, It’s Just An Extra Chromosome!
For more information on what happened at the commemoration follow Umthombo on twitter and facebook. Also contact Zimbabwe Down Syndrome Association on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit them at 3rd and Batch Street, Bulawayo.