Rural parents who refuse to allow their disabled and intellectually impaired children to participate in sports derail their progress and rob them a chance to learn valuable life skills and possibly also block off career possibilities.
This is the view of Eric Ravhura, a floor hockey assistant coach at Tshilwavhusiku Razwimisani Special School in Ha-Ravele village, outside Louis Trichardt, in Limpopo.
He said having spent more than seven years working with disabled and intellectually impaired learners has taught him that participating in various sporting codes gives disabled children a chance to learn life skills, make friends and socialise with others.
“Having a disability is not the end of the world, and parents who have disabled and intellectually impaired children must not feel ashamed to allow them to play with others.
“Allowing them to participate in sports might give them an opportunity to be independent and make a life for themselves. It pains me to know that there are still parents who hide their disabled children away and never send them to school. We have so many special schools in the province which can accommodate them,” said Ravhura.
Tshilwavhusiku Razwimisani Special School is a school for children with intellectual disabilities. The school accommodates learners from various multicultural, multi-lingual backgrounds who often have more than one disability.
“Having patience is very important when working with disabled learners because if you are patient with them you will see that they are the same as able people. All they need is patience from us. Through sport, there are many careers which disabled learners can follow and be successful in, so we need to encourage them to participate in sports because it also gives them a chance to exercise and stay fit and healthy,” he said.
Over the years the school has represented South Africa at international level in floor hockey.
Ernest Muvhulawa, 18, a learner at Tshilwavhusiku Razwimisani Special School, said: “Playing hockey relaxes my mind as it gives me a chance to socialise, travel and make new friends and it is also a form of exercise. I am very fit and healthy as we train regularly at school.
“Through playing floor hockey I have already been to various places, which is why I love playing it. One day I wish to see myself representing my country at floor hockey tournaments.”
More than one hundred disabled learners from various special schools in the Vhembe district recently participated in various sports at Thohoyandou indoor sports centre for a chance to represent the district in the upcoming provincial Paralympic Games. The games included floor hockey, bocce, and futsal.