Children with disabilities in Zimbabwe often face a bleak future with little opportunity to access quality educational facilities specially tailored to their needs, and few prospects for employment when they reach adulthood. They are frequently not fully integrated into society and often don’t get the chance to mix with children their own age. Many have few chances to lead independent and productive lives when they grow up.
Ticha Muzavazi, poet, artist and teacher, works with children with various disabilities at St. Giles Special School in Harare. Amongst other classes he teaches visual arts to groups of deaf children. But his most exciting work currently is with helping visually impaired children to reach their full potential. He runs a programme called Computer Skills for Every Blind Child and he also teaches blind children musical skills, in particular how to play mbira.
Ticha is a highly qualified educationalist having studied at Mogenster Teachers College in Masvingo, the United College of Education in Bulawayo and at the University of Zimbabwe where he completed a B. Ed, specialising in teaching children with special needs, in particular visual impairment. He has been teaching at St. Giles since 2008 so he has many years of experience in his field.
The children in Ticha’s ‘Golden Class’ are from grades 4 and 7. They have learned to type faster and with more accuracy than many adults. Text books are scanned into a computer and the children can then listen to the lessons and type out their answers to questions and complete assignments. It means that the children can work at their own pace and also without constant supervision from the teacher. St. Giles is a primary school, but children with good computer skills can go on to study at special senior schools or even be integrated into normal secondary schools and ultimately attend a mainstream university for further studies if they wish. It frees students from being solely reliant on Braille texts or exclusively using Braille typewriters for their class assignments.
Tanyaradzwa Gondo, a student from the ‘Golden Class’ says he can’t live without his computer. He can print and play music at family and church parties and he is now a drummer in the church band. He values his computer skills as he can now help friends and family by installing speech software as well as antivirus programmes and other apps.
Apart from his work at St. Giles Ticha also has a class at his home on Saturday mornings for students who are not enrolled at the school.
But it seems the musical and artistic side of his teaching is the most satisfying for Ticha and the most inspiring and fun for his students. Ticha has organised and co-ordinated the Special Schools Art Festival since its inception in 2012. It’s an annual event which brings together children with disabilities from across the country to showcase their talents. The festival has been supported by many mainstream artists including Alexio Kawara, Victor Kunonga, Hope Masike and many others. The next Special Schools Arts Festival will be held on Saturday 10th June this year so come along and see the amazing talent showcased by these very talented children.
In 2015 the children from the St. Giles Mbira Band took part in the World Children’s Festival held in Washington, DC. For most of the children it was their first time to travel outside Zimbabwe, so it was a life changing experience. They’ll be taking part in the Festival again in 2019.
Ticha has just released a new book called The Nyunga Mbira Handbook which will assist his students – and other aspiring musicians – to take their musical skills to a more advanced level.
For the Special Schools Arts Festival in June members of the public can contribute and support this great event by helping out with video and sound recording equipment, technical assistance or even just volunteering to help as ushers or with preparing and serving food and refreshments.
To find out more contact Ticha Muzavazi on cell or Whatsapp: 0774 738 151, email: [email protected], or visit his Facebook page.