Is the target to create 2,000 jobs for disabled persons by 2020 feasible?

Masaka Creamery Ltd, that is popular for its tasty yogurt, has about 28 workers and more than 60 per cent of them have hearing impairement. File.

There is a need for commitment to technology and innovation to create at least 2000 jobs for disabled persons by next year, the National Council of People with Disabilities has said.

Emmanuel Ndayisaba, the Executive Secretary of the council, told Business Timesthat one of the best  approaches to create such jobs include requiring  all TVET institutions to be inclusive.

“This means that the schools must have accessible laptops and other learning materials for people with disabilities in some schools by 2020,” he said.

Ndayisaba said that the move will enable disabled people to create different jobs.

He said that the Government has put in place different mechanisms to help disabled people access capital and tool kits for those who graduate from TVET schools so that they are able to create employment through National Employment Programme.

The five-year programme, that was launched in  2016, takes the lead in facilitating the creation of the 200,000 off-farm jobs every year and 1.5 million jobs by 2024 by putting more efforts in agro-processing, horticulture, manufacturing, value addition of minerals, construction, knowledge-based services), creative arts, tourism,  public and goods transport and others.

At least Rwf80 million is invested every year in the programme to help disabled people create jobs.

“In the first year we invested Rwf200 million and Rwf80 million in each of the following years. With such annual investment, so far this initiative has helped   1,575 disabled people create jobs in tailoring, shoe-making, weaving, welding, hospitality among others under the employment programme,” Ndayisaba said.

With the joint efforts by the council of disabled people, Labor ministry, local government, Rwanda Development Board’s department in charge of capacity building, the support is provided to the beneficiaries through Business Development Fund and SACCOs.

“An individual or cooperative can design a project which is then funded for implementation. The beneficiaries get start-up capital support of which the half is a grant while the other half is a loan which they pay back at 11 per cent interest rate.” he said.

There are over 446,000 people with disabilities, over 5 per cent of the total population, according to 2012 population census.

Under social protection programmes Rwf1.8 billion was also reserved by the Local Government Ministry through Local Administrative Entities Development Agency (LODA) as direct support to vulnerable disabled people this fiscal year of which Rwf1.4 billion has been given to vulnerable 22,000 households.

“Government has also been allocating Rwf2 million in every district to develop income-generating activities of cooperatives of disabled people. The amount has since been increased to Rwf4 million,” he said.

 “Most of the disabled adults didn’t get any chance to attend school previously. That is why we decided that they take TVET courses that their favors age,” Ndayisaba said.

He  said that there are different campaigns to sensitize youth, women and people with disabilities to join existing Technical Vocational and Education Training programs for self-employment and creation of own businesses for them to benefit from the subsidized scheme of start-up toolkits facility loan.

However, he said that implementing inclusive and special needs education is still facing issues based on a few teachers who have limited skills, lack of teaching and learning materials, schools that lack basic infrastructure for disabled students.

“All these issues cause inaccessibility of education to disabled children. Most of the schools with inclusive and special needs education are only private which means there is still a gap in public special needs education schools. The minimum school fees they pay in such schools is Rwf100,000 which is not affordable for most of the vulnerable disabled people,” he said.

Ndayisaba noted that inclusive and special needs education policy has been reviewed and approved by the cabinet and joint efforts are needed to implement it.

“Financial resources have to be mobilized and help to make schools especially rural schools inclusive by training capable teachers in special needs education programmes, didactic materials. For instance, teachers can be trained on sign language among other skill,” he said.

He said there are only about 18 schools that have since gotten to the level to be considered inclusive which are few compared to over 3,000 schools across the country.