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Rwanda: There is not a single school for deafblind people

The Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB) together with Rwanda National Union of the Deaf (RNUD) and the Rwanda Association of the Deaf Women (RNADW) have called upon the government and stakeholders to contribute to the protection and promotion of the fundamental rights of deafblind people that  include their education.

The voice was raised during the celebration of the International Day of Deafblindness this Thursday, 2nd July in Kigali for the 8th time.

The 2020 celebration in Rwanda was themed ‘Persons with Deafblindness must be empowered to be equal as all other Rwandans’. It aims at encouraging the public awareness for deafblind people themselves and challenges that they are facing.

The key challenge is that deafblindness is not yet recognized as a distinct disability which makes it difficult for the public to be aware of persons with such disabilities and respect tactile sign language as important in helping people with deafblindness live with greater independence and freedom.

The education of deafblind people in Rwanda remains a big problem in Rwanda, as there isn’t any special school for them, according to Dr Betty Mukarwego, the President of Rwanda Association of the Deaf Women (RNADW).

Most of deafblind children who need to go to school so as to learn tactile sign language which could help them communicate with others and address their problems.

However their education is very difficult because for the tactile sign language, the number of students must be equal to the number of teachers.

“Even if this education is difficult and expensive, it’s possible in Rwanda, based on the experience in countries like Sweden and the United States of America. So far there isn’t any school for deafblind in Rwanda. Education for all will not be covered if deafblind persons are left behind.” Dr Betty reiterated.

“We urge the government to empower this group of people and promote their education so as they get all necessary means that can help whenever they need a certain service”, said Donatilla Kanimba, the Executive Director of the Rwanda Union of the Blind.

 “It’s very difficult for people with deafblindness to study in Rwanda. We are advocating for the establishment of schools”, Uwizeyimana Naomi, a member of Rwandan Organisation for people with deafblindness.

They are communicating using tactile sign language

Other challenges they face are related to social integration, transport because everyone needs a companion, limited number of interpreter’s employers who neglect them due to the mind-set that disability is associated with inability among others.

Particularly, during this time of Covid 19 pandemic, information about the mode of infection, the strategies set by the government to contain its spread don’t reach them, Bambanze Herman the vice president of Rwandan Organization for people with deafblindness, emphasises.

So far, 167 persons with deafblindness countrywide were identified but only 27 of them were trained on tactile sign language use and the Rwandan Organization for persons with deafblindness was established.

The organization thinks there is a big number of unidentified people with deafblindness. A research needs to be conducted to identify them all.

In Rwanda the International Day of Deafblindness was celebrated this Thursday, 2nd July in Kigali for the 8th time
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