Youth with albinism make passionate plea for equal opportunity

_: Youth with albinism have pleaded with Minister for Social Development, Ms Bathabile Dlamini, and her department to help dispel myths around albinism and help them access equal opportunities in education and work. This was during a dialogue meeting for youth with albinism hosted by the Department of Social Development in Gugulethu, Cape Town.

Speaking through their representative, Mr Maxwell Thabethe from KwaZulu-Natal, the youth lamented that myths about albinism still find an ear in communities. “Many children with albinism are still prejudiced and marginalised in our communities because of the myths that persist about albinism,” said Thabethe.

“The school drop-out rate for young people with albinism is very high because of the torment they are subjected to in schools by ignorant learners and teachers. There are not enough medical practitioners adequately trained to deal with our condition and many times we do not receive adequate medical care when we require it.

“We are also discriminated against in the workplace. Finding a job for a youth with albinism is difficult because potential employers look at what you cannot do instead of what you can do. If you’re lucky to get a job, the chances of promotion are slim because you are seen as inadequate,” explained Thabethe.

Among the proposals the youth requested the department to consider were the standardisation of the criteria used to determine eligibility to receive a government grant for people with albinism, a child care dependency grant for children born with albinism up to the age of 18 – this would give poor families the means to buy things such as sunscreen and provide adequate eye care for children with albinism and labour policy reform to address perceived unfair labour practices against people with albinism.

Ms Nomasonto Mazibuko from the Albinism Society of South Africa also appealed to the government to train more social workers on albinism. Said Mazibuko, “It is a very disturbing situation when a person who is supposed to counsel and give facts to a mother who has given birth to a child with albinism begins to ask inappropriate questions about the child. The department must look at training more people with albinism as social workers to address these issues.”

Responding on behalf of the department, Mr Wiseman Magasela, Deputy Director-General for Social Policy, said the government’s response to the issues raised needs to be two-pronged.

“We need you to work with us,” said Magasela, “firstly to craft an awareness strategy on albinism to dispel myths and ensure that we eliminate discrimination and prejudice so that people with albinism enjoy the full advantage of the Bill of Rights as outlined in the Constitution.”

Magasela also added that government will have to consider a multi-governmental approach to provide direct assistance to people with albinism. “We have to look into the definition of albinism as it relates to disability grants. Currently, albinism is defined as a disability in South Africa, but having the condition does not automatically qualify one for a disability grant. We need, together, to come up with a concrete proposal on this matter,” said Magasela.

The department also promised to look at the expansion of the “dignity pack” programme – packs containing such things as lip balm, sunscreen, sun hats, etc.

The department has been in Gugulethu since May 8 conducting a series of dialogue meetings with various special groups from around the country in an effort to gain a better understanding of their challenges and aspirations in order to assist them improve their lives.

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