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ALBINOS ATTACK CRISIS: 12 albino children ‘drop’ out of school in Karonga

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The scourge of abductions and killings of people living with albinism is taking its toll on schools in Karonga as 12 children with albinism have dropped out in fear for their lives, Malawi News has learnt.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has since said it is disturbed by the reports and has called on communities to help in ensuring protection of people living with albinism.

Malawi has, in the past three years now, been gripped by a spate of abductions and killings of people living with albinism.

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As of last week, 17 albinos had been killed since 2014, six of them this year alone. Besides 14 had been kidnapped and 28 graves of bodies of people with albinism had been exhumed.

Now Malawi News can report that so far 12 pupils with albinism have left school in Karonga alone recently. But the figure could rise as authorities indicate they are working to come up with exact numbers.

Executive member for Federation of Disability Organisations in Malawi (Fedoma) Noah Simwaka has bemoaned the declining numbers of pupils with albinism in most schools across Karonga.

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Simwaka who teaches at St Mary’s Boys Primary School in the district said out of the five albino pupils at the school, three have changed places after an 11-year-old at Ipyana Primary School was attacked last year.

“We are getting reports of pupils staying out of school and parents transferring children to other districts because a precedence was set and a boy nearly lost his life. It is sad and unfortunate,” said Simwaka.

He added:

“As Fedoma we have embarked on sensitisation campaigns to ensure safety and security of all pupils with albinism and any other disabilities. We are engaging the police and courts because we want to see culprits being punished accordingly.”

He however said the federation is yet to establish the exact number of the pupils who have dropped out in order to compile an official report.

In a telephone interview, spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology Manfred Ndovie said education authorities are on the ground working with the police to assess the Karonga situation as Capital Hill waits for an official report.

He further disclosed that there is need to provide psychosocial support to both parents and children and assure them of safety.

“We are encouraging pupils, students and parents not to leave their wards with albinism move alone. To the children we have set up support systems and they are being told to be suspicious of any stranger who tries to get close to them,” said Ndovie.

Executive Director for Civil Society Education Coalition (Csec) Benedicto Kondowe said abduction and killings of children with albinism are not only an attack on their personal development and future but also an attack on their contribution to national development.

“Community policing should be strengthened in areas that are prone to these attacks. Schools must promote collective responsibility by ensuring that students take full responsibility to provide protection of their fellow students with albinism,” he said.

Recently, the Association of People Living with Albinism (Apam) had an audience with President Mutharika during which they called for protection.

Mutharika has consistently condemned the attacks and warned that those perpetrating the violence will be hunted down and face the full arm of the law.

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