Despite government efforts to promote inclusive education in all Rwandan schools, teachers say they still lack the skills to support children with disabilities in school.
Statistics show that in Rwanda there are over 400,000 visually impaired people including 2,236 students at all levels of education.
“We are faced with many challenges in terms of educational support for children with different disabilities. Indeed, when we were studying education at school, we did not have the knowledge and skills to teach children with disabilities, ”explains Pascal Bucyensenge, teacher at Kabirizi primary school in Rubavu district.
“If it’s a child who doesn’t speak, it’s difficult to talk to him because we haven’t been taught sign language. We hope that through training we can acquire skills to help children with disabilities. Currently our school has 61 disabled students, ”he says.
Bucyensenge adds that even when the school receives teaching and learning materials to help children with disabilities, teachers have limited practical skills to use them.
“The result is that the materials are not used productively due to limited skills. We need advocacy for continuing education, ”he says.
Clementine Musabyimana, a teacher from Nyanza district, says capacity building in assistive technology is needed.
“We have no competence to teach children so that those with disabilities will follow the class as they should. There are some technologies out there, but we still need training on how to use them. Some children with disabilities don’t learn as well as others because we also don’t have the skills to teach them using these technologies, ”she said, adding that their school has 16 children with disabilities.
Theoneste Nshimiyimana, teacher at GS Mushongi in Rulindo district, explains that the school has 34 children with different disabilities. “Children have different disabilities, but we need skills to help each child learn. Most often certain technologies to teach them are brought to school but we do not use them to the maximum. For example, there is braille technology, but we haven’t started using it yet.
Gonzague Habinshuti, a lecturer at the College of Education at the University of Rwanda, School of Inclusive and Adapted Education, said the school has started training primary and secondary teachers in technology for assistance to help disabled children.
“Assistive technology has three categories; high technology with software, medium technology and low technology used to help disabled children, ”he says.
He says there are many technologies being deployed in schools but teachers do not yet have the skills to use them.
“We are now looking at each category of disability and training teachers in the use of technology for each disability. We show them how they are used in lesson plans, ”he says.
Habinshuti says that many children did not study due to a lack of technology to help them and, when available, teachers lacked skills. Only between one and seven percent of books are published in a format that visually impaired people can read in schools.
“It has hampered inclusive education because they don’t have books in a format they can read,” he says.
Theodore Ngendahayo, an ICT worker at the Rwanda Basic Education Council (REB), says at least 40 teachers representing schools with inclusive education are being trained to also train others. others.
Training on assistive technology and the use of accessible interactive digital textbooks, he said, aims to ensure inclusive education and access to information for people with disabilities.
He says Rwanda, along with Kenya and Uganda, are benefiting from the Accessible Digital Textbooks Project to Promote Inclusive Education through Accessible Learning Materials funded by the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. (UNPRPD).
“The overall objective of this training in partnership with the Global Initiative for Schools and Online Communities (GESCI) is to ensure that teaching and learning for learners with disabilities is made more inclusive and accommodating, in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Disability and Sustainable Development Goal 4, which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, ”said Ngendahayo.