Clementine Ishimwe, 9, from Ngamba Sector in Kamonyi District was born with physical disability and can’t walk except in her wheelchair bike.
Her family used to leave her in the back yard and he couldn’t go to school until literacy champions encouraged her family to let her attend a reading club.
Claudine Cyuzuzo, a literacy champion at Masogwe Reading Club said that Ishimwe joined the reading club since June 2018 after visiting her and encouraging her parents to send her to a reading club.
“We used to visit and encourage her to read books. But we also encouraged her parents to send her to our reading club”. Said Claudine
Ishimwe is now in P1 at Masogwe Primary School. She lives in one kilometer away from her school and reading club. She always walks in the wheelchair bike. She eventually summoned the courage to take her to a reading club thanks to literacy champions who cares for her.
“I love Denise (her colleague) and Claudine (a literacy champion) because they take me to school and reading club”. Ishimwe said.
Despite the obvious hardship, Ishimwe Clementine is fortunate that USAID Mureke Dusome has embraced the inclusive education – the pedagogical concept that all children of all abilities and backgrounds should learn together.
Reading club has transformed Clementine into a courageous and motivated student. She is able to read and write some Kinyarwanda words.
She optimistically says that she needs to be the best performer in the class and rich woman.
“I need to hold the first grade and become a rich”. She said
Challenges and success
Claudine Cyuzuzo, a literacy champion at Masogwe Primary School says there is one physically impaired among 76 children in her reading club.
It is not easy to implement inclusive education but a reading club tried its best to set up basic facilities, especially for Clementine who has physical impairment.
Ishimwe stays seated in her wheelchair throughout reading sessions. She used to sit on the ground like other children, but it was impossible due to her backbone difficulties. Due to this issue, she felt different and frustrated.
Claudine Cyuzuzo says that they came up with idea to put two chairs (left and right) next to her wheel so that she can feel comfortable and inclusive.
“She used to deny staying in her wheelchair and wanted to sit on the mat with her colleagues, but she was unable to do so due to her backbone difficulties. We decided to put two chairs by her side so that she can be cared by her colleagues”. She said
Clementine Ishimwe now performs well in the class and reading club after the efforts made by literacy champions. Her teachers confirm that she no longer feels lonely, adding that she participates in the class activities.
Education sector strategic plan 2018/2019-2023/24 recognizes that disabilities are still a major factor affecting children’s access to school in Rwanda. 1,545 children out of 185,666 enrolled in pre-primary education in 2016, were identified as having a disability. Data reveal that only 0.75% of the total number of children enrolled in primary schools.
According to MINEDUC statistics, there are 30, 899 learners with disabilities from pre-primary to secondary level, while NISR (National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda) census of 2012 indicates that there are 87,239 disabled children across the country, aged between 3-18. This indicates that there is a big number of children with disabilities who are out of school.2