Additional time is one of the special arrangements provided to pupils with disabilities as they started national primary leaving examinations on Monday, July 17, according to the National Examination and School Inspection Authority (NESA). The exams end on Wednesday, July 19. The 304 boys and 257 girls with disabilities – among the more than 200,000 primary school children who started national primary leaving examinations – have an extra hour during exams, unlike in the past when they sat for two hours like their other colleagues with no disabilities. ALSO READ: Nearly 600 pupils with disabilities sit primary leaving exams The Director General of NESA, Bernard Bahati, told The New Times that “this academic year, a new guideline was introduced to ensure that children with disabilities are given an extra hour” to do their exams. “This is because their speed might be slow due to the disabilities,” he noted. Bahati also noted that a number of schools with special needs and inclusive education programmes were turned into examination centres for children with disabilities so as to ease things for the kids during exams. ALSO READ: Over 200,000 pupils start primary leaving exams “These schools already have facilities that facilitate children with disabilities. We have teachers specialized in special needs and inclusive education who helped in preparing the exams and have to supervise the exams,” he said. Each candidate, he said, is supported depending on their particular disability. “There are others doing exams together with other candidates in different centres but with special support. For instance, pupils who can’t read small letters were given exam copies with big letters,” Bahati said. There are 1,099 examination centres in 3,644 schools countrywide with the exams scheduled according to a timetable set by NESA. Special needs education policy There are more than 400,000 persons with visual impairment in the country, including 2, 236 students in all levels of education. In February, the Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB) urged the Ministry of Education and NESA to enforce and monitor the implementation of the special needs and inclusive education policy. This was one of the key recommendations listed in a research study – conducted in 19 out of Rwanda’s 30 districts – on existing innovative assistive technology (AT) and UDL-based materials facilitating access to learning targeting learners with disabilities in Rwanda. ALSO READ: Activists call for schools for children living with multiple disabilities The National Union of Disability Organisations in Rwanda (NUDOR) on July 14 launched a new campaign calling for more support for school children with disabilities. The campaign dubbed “Ring the Bell,” according to Eugene Twagirimana, the Community-Based Rehabilitation (CBR) programme coordinator at NUDOR, aims to create awareness about the challenges still hampering access to education for pupils and students with disabilities. “Some school infrastructures are still inaccessible. The teaching and learning materials are still not easily accessible and affordable,” he said.