By: Kanamugire Emmanuel
The Ministry of Education through Rwanda Education Board and different partners in education have committed to promote access to digital content and technology among children with disabilities in Rwandan schools.
The 2019 Revised Special Needs and Inclusive Education Policy demonstrates further renewal of the government of Rwanda’s commitment to supporting inclusive education for all students.
However, there are still challenges that include but not limited to few adapted materials to support students with disabilities in mainstream schools, the lack of approved and standardized Rwandan Sign Language and Kinyarwanda Braille and lack of enough trainings for teachers on how to use adapted materials.
Speaking at the opening cession of the three day technical workshop on inclusive education in Rwanda that has brought together participants from MINEDUC, REB and development partners in education and civil society organisations, on Wednesday 26 June, the Minister of Education, Eugene Mutimura, said there is a priority of ICT learning in schools “and therefore we work together to promote accessibility to digital content and technology of children with disabilities.”
“This workshop will be a good opportunity to work together, make panel discussion on how we can move forward to implement the Policy on special needs education and it’s pertinent for us as a country but mainly on the wellbeing of our people.” He said.
“If we work together specific challenges such as limited devices for children with disabilities, teaching aids in our schools will be well addressed. We are quite aware that disability is not inability, when children with disabilities are supported in terms of policy, in terms of implementation, they can be very capable of becoming important citizens of our country and the region at large.” He added.
The US ambassador to Rwanda, Peter Vrooman, insisted that helping children in special needs is a key point in inclusive education agenda.
The US government through USAID Soma Umenye project support the Ministry of Education to providing materials for people with visual impairment, deaf, helping teachers through trainings and teaching how to use digital tools to enhance accessibility.
He said also that they will work together with the Ministry of Education to design materials, and provide trainings and infrastructures relevant to education of children with disabilities in Rwanda, especially ICT devices.
“Using digital tools, you can reach many more people. Successful inclusion means communication, sign language, resources in braille, infrastructure basically accessible and access to communication technologies. We will work with the Ministry of Education and their team to see what we help to do that.” Ambassador Vrooman added
At least 1,362 students with disabilities enrolled in nursery or pre-primary schools (0.6 percent) of all students enrolled in nursery and pre-primary, according to Mineduc statistics of 2017, while 24,980 students with disabilities enrolled in primary education.
Only 1492 primary teachers (3.4 percent of all primary teachers) trained in special needs and inclusive education. There are 522 schools ( 18 percent of all primary schools) with adapted infrastructure and materials for students with disabilities.
The workshop that opened on Wednesday aims to supporting MINEDUC and REB to further explore goals and potential activities in their implementation plan for the Revised Special Needs and Inclusive Education Policy of 2019.