Cyuve, Musanze District | August 11, 2017 – In Rwanda, many disabled persons including blind people often have little access to education, as the result of this, they cannot actively participate in their communities’ socioeconomic development.
The plight of persons with disabilities further extends to their economic situation, where various studies and surveys have unquestionably linked disabled persons with increased likelihood of falling prey to acute poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition among other difficulties that make living a happy and fulfilling life, next to impossible.
The One UN family in Rwanda is committed to ensuring that No One is Left Behind, as Rwanda continues toward a path of prosperity and sustainable development.
It is along these lines that in June 2017, Hillside Hope and UNDP Rwanda signed a grant agreement under the programme titled “Strengthening Civil Society Organizations for Responsive and Accountable Governance in Rwanda”. The grant is to support the Blessing School for the Visually Impaired (BSVI) to provide better education to students who are blind or with visual impairment through equipping Braille machines and other items as well as providing trainings to teachers.
Just a few months later, the relevance of this partnership began to come to fruition.
A one week training workshop for primary school teachers on reading and writing Braille was organized, with the beneficiaries promising to pass the knowledge gained on to their peers in their schools and the in the wider community.
The workshop was organised by Hillside Hope, founder of the BSVI. BSVI started in January 2015 and currently, it has 16 students and 3 teachers with 1 care taker. The director of the BSVI, Jean Bosco NTAKIRUTIMANA said that the aim of the school is to empower the visually impaired and blind children through education and help them fulfill their potential in life.
During the Braille training, the participating teachers were also sensitized on how to approach blind or visually impaired children and how to advocate for them. Furthermore, the teachers tried to walk around the training venue compound with their eyes covered with an eye mask. This exercise was aimed at immersing them into the environment the blind children experience every single day, to help them better understand their context.
The project manager of Hillside Hope, Jonathan NIYONZIMA said, “Disability is not inability.” Teachers should not treat their students with disability as people who need help. In fact, a teacher from BSVI expressed that those students can be very smart. Another teacher from a public school said that “now I think that we should not feel pity for the students with disability but instead focus on what they are capable of, and help nurture their undeniable talent.”
Speaking on behalf of the One UN Rwanda delegation, Jean de Dieu Kayiranga, a Programme Analyst with the UNDP Rwanda, wholeheartedly thanked the BSVI team for organizing and implementing the training, which will help better equip the teachers to deal with the rigors of teaching children with physical disabilities such as blindness.
He further added that all current global developmental agendas such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the AU’s Agenda 2063 all stress the need to ensure that development is inclusive and no one is left behind, and this training helped ensure that.
Mukantabana Beatrice, a teacher at BSVI, found the training particularly helpful because she feels she is now better equipped to understand what life is like for the blind children, and now better understands their needs.
“I am now determined to correct certain behaviors I had towards the blind children, because I now understand them better. I will also pass the message to fellow teachers and even parents to ensure that they all understand these children, and respond to their special needs” , she said.
Iramumpaye Dieudonne, is a teacher in a public school in the same sector. To him, the devil is in the details, and thanks to the training, he now unequivocally understands that children with disabilities are children too just like any others, and should be treated equally and not marginalized.
“My eyes are now open to small things that happen in the playground, where a child is often nicknamed according to his/her physical disability, and this isn’t right. I will endeavor to teach children not to do this and include disabled children in their play circle, and not marginalize them in any way.”
Both Dieudonne and Beatrice underlined the need for advocacy and sensitization campaigns – aimed at both the grassroots leadership and the community – to help them understand that disability is not inability and children born with these deformations should not be neglected and left to their fate, but instead can become productive members of society that contribute to the development of the community if they are supported and indeed empowered.
The workshop was designed to feature not only teachers who currently have students with visual impairment but also for teachers who may not have students with disability currently. This was done specifically to train the teachers on the importance of advocacy for the disabled students, to ensure that their special needs are catered to and they aren’t left behind.
Written by Steve Nzaramba and Kay Kurimoto
 Poverty and Disability, a survey of the literature, (1999, Elwan). Retrieved from http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTPOVERTY/Resources/WDR/Background/elwan.pdf