Education of children with special needs is set for a major boost with the University of Rwanda (UR) commencing specialised training programmes for teachers to handle children with different learning challenges.
Prof. George Njoroge, the Principal of UR’s College of Education, told Sunday Times that the university aimed to admit at least 1,200 in-service teachers to upgrade their skills.
“We have already received applications at the level of 900 but we require 1, 200. The university will require about 50 students to undertake a Bachelor of Education in Special Needs Education and 50 more for Diploma. We also need 150 for Bachelor in Primary Education, especially in early childhood education, Foundations of Education, and Integrated Science,” Njoroge said.
This is in line of the government’s special needs education policy of 2007 that seeks to step up to learners with “disabilities or with other educational needs” to enable them enroll, remain in school and complete their education without any impediments. Children with special educational needs include those with physical disabilities, hearing and visual impairments as well as intellectual learning challenges.
All other groups that face difficulties in education, such as those with HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases, traumatised children; and children with learning achievement disorders such as slow learners and underachievers as well as gifted and talented children.
Njoroge said that will place advertisements calling for applications from teachers who are already in service and need to upgrade through distance education programme.
“The reason why we did not have applicants in these programmes, is that those who were considered were applicants who sat their examinations last year, whereas these specific programmes require two years of teaching experience. It focuses on those who are already teaching and need to upgrade in those [specialized] areas.”
Those who will join the distance education programme start studies in January 2015. The government’s special needs education policy of 2007 highlights the need for the education of disadvantaged persons and that the undertaking will be achieved only through investment in various stakeholders at all levels. According to the policy document, basic education for children with special educational needs aims at minimising barriers to access and to optimal learning.
“The government of Rwanda recognizes the need to address the needs of children with special needs education, as both a national obligation and also as a commitment to international frameworks,” reads part of the 2007 document.
It focuses on six specific objectives that include: ensuring conditions that permit learners with special needs to enroll, remain and complete school; promoting quality education for learners with special educational needs; and mobilizing a coalition in support of education for learners with special educational needs.
Establishment of a system of regular monitoring, evaluation and reporting on the implementation of the policy; and improving the quality of delivery by ensuring appropriate infrastructure as well as curriculum content and methodology and provision of appropriate learning materials, are the other objectives.
It is estimated that about 10 percent of all 2,019,991 learners in primary schools had a disability “to a lesser or greater extent, which indicates that” approximately 175, 205 learners had some degree of disability.
The national special needs education is premised on the impact of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, poverty; and the impact of HIV/AIDS and other health-related hazards.