Kigali – On 3 December, USAID/Rwanda joined with the Rwanda Education Board (REB) and Disabled Persons Organizations, including the Rwanda National Union of the Deaf, to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities with an official handover of new accessible digital storybooks to support all children to learn to read.
The accessible digital storybooks are part of a broader effort of the USAID Soma Umenye project to support Kinyarwanda literacy for lower primary children of all abilities, including those with vision and hearing challenges.
In addition to adapting 54 storybooks into the accessible digital format, USAID is supporting the development of a Rwandan Sign Language dictionary and the standardization of the Kinyarwanda Braille Code.
During the handover event, guests viewed the new accessible digital storybooks, which include written text, narrated text, Rwanda Sign Language video, interactive reading comprehension questions, and a vocabulary glossary. Children in attendance showed how the new digital storybooks can be accessed through REB’s online e-learning portal (http://elearning.reb.rw) and how the storybook functionality can support all children to practice reading.
During the event, Head of ICT in Education Department/REB, Dr. Christine Niyizamwiyitira, emphasized the importance of digitizing books as part of the integration of ICT in education and also as a means to make reading more accessible for all learners.
She said: “We appreciate these new digital materials which will support early grade children to learn to read who have not always had that opportunity. USAID Soma Umenye has also helped to train early grade Kinyarwanda teachers in Universal Design for Learning methodologies, which make teaching and learning more inclusive for all children.”
USAID’s Education Office Director, Ms. Luann Gronhovd expressed the U.S. government’s commitment to inclusive education in Rwanda: “Quality education is a right for all children, including children with disabilities, and learning to read is a critical foundation for future academic success and lifelong achievement.”
The Ministry of Education and partners are encouraging families and children to read for at least 15 minutes every day. Practicing reading leads to stronger reading skills and improved performance in school.
The Executive Secretary of the Rwanda National Union of the Deaf, Mr. Samuel Munana, thanked USAID for their support and appreciated the collaboration between Disabled Persons Organizations, government, and private sector in adapting the books.
“As we recognize the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, we praise the recent contributions and ongoing commitments to support literacy for children with disabilities. We encourage teachers and parents to help students access the digital books and practice reading every day.”
To achieve the goal of improved reading skills, USAID Soma Umenye has supported REB to develop and distribute over 3.5 million textbooks and supplementary readers to equip every P1 to P3 classroom and to train over 10,000 teachers.
During the period of school closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, USAID Soma Umenye also supported REB by producing P1-P3 Kinyarwanda radio lessons and digital literacy materials.