Nzuzi cannot walk. But her parents still decide to send her to school. She goes on to become a lawyer and the family’s main breadwinner. A symbol of hope? Of course. But it’s also a success story the managers of Kinshasa’s inclusive education project would like to see repeated more often. Because in reality Nzuzi is the heroine of a comic strip from the DRC, a fictional character designed to raise awareness among children and their parents of the need to include children with disabilities in mainstream schools.
According to the comic strip, “Nzuzi is a clever girl with a difference.” Born with a physical impairment, she takes to task a society that refuses to include her. The comic strip candidly explores the prejudice spread by witchcraft and the resistance of the girl’s family and teachers to her parents’ decision to send her to a mainstream school rather than a special institution.
It’s a situation Alain Kikeni, operational coordinator and former manager of the inclusive education project, has experienced at close hand: “My sister had a light physical disability and found it hard to walk. She couldn’t go to school and had to train as a seamstress. My parents thought they were doing the right thing, but her life could have turned out very differently.”
Hence the importance of raising the awareness of children and parents. Created especially by Handicap International, Nzuzi’s story is a vital weapon in combating discrimination and promoting the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream schools and society at large.
The comic strip has been sent out to twelve partner schools in Kinshasawith the aim of fostering the inclusion of children with disabilities in mainstream schools. This awareness resource has received an enthusiastic response from teachers and school heads. “The inclusion of these children in mainstream schools is far from a foregone conclusion in DRC,” one of them explains. “That’s the purpose of the inclusive education project”. Let’s hope it helps turn Nzuzi’s fictional life into reality in the years to come.
Read the interview with Alain Kikeni.