Teaching is all about selflessness
Donata School is a school for children with special needs; the deaf, mentally and physically retarded, dyslexic and many more. It is the only school of its kind in the area. It is situated in the central part of rural Zambia. It was started and named after my mother Donata, who is also disabled, and is run entirely on charity.
I started my teaching career in 2005 as an untrained volunteer teacher. I never thought of myself as a teacher; it all started with helping my mum when she started the school. While working at the school I discovered that teaching is all about sacrifice. Most pupils who came to the school at that time were those thought to be useless, neglected by their families and society at large, so the school was the only place they could socialise freely without being called bad names. To teach the hearing impaired, I learnt sign language from a fellow teacher who was also hearing impaired. When this teacher left the school to look for greener pastures I started teaching children with hearing impairments. At first it was not easy for me, but with commitment I found myself handling the deaf without any difficulty. There was a time when all the teachers left the school because the money was too little. I carried on working alone, teaching grades one to three.
For the school to develop we used to go into the community looking for children with special needs. When we found them we asked their parents to bring them to the school. Some guardians and parents were very difficult to convince, but after some discussion and counselling they agreed to bring their children to the school. Many of them thought that their children could never be educated; they thought it was a sheer waste of time and resources. We told them that disability is not inability, and gave them examples of persons with impairment who are well educated and very successful in life. Slowly we got them to change their minds and negative attitudes towards people with impairments.
Things are looking up
Today the school has grown and I have become a trained teacher working in the Zambian government. I am now doing a three-year diploma course in special needs training at the Zambian Institute of Special Education in Lusaka. Once I have completed that, I am hoping it will guarantee me a permanent posting at Donata School. In the meantime I spend a lot of my free time there assisting the teachers and the pupils.
Demetria Kalunga teaches at Donata School for the Disabled Children, situated in Itala, Mkushi town, Central Province in Zambia