Angelique Nyirahabimana’s son was born physically impaired and she never thought that his son would join school like others. She was reluctant to find out if there was any chance of getting a school where her child couldn’t be bullied.
Nyirahabwanimana, 31, lives in Muhoza Sector, Musanze District. She says that she would leave her son at home, for fear of exposing him to ridicule.
She however managed to deal with the stigma after she received counselling from community health workers, as part of their house to house initiative, to comfort the families with children living with disabilities.
“At three years old, my son can’t walk or speak. I felt ashamed in the community. I would keep him at home and fear to carry him around in public,” the Nyirahabimana said.
This was until community health workers visited her village, as they assessed the condition of people living with disabilities ahead of the launch of an Inclusive Early Childhood Education.
Strive Foundation Rwanda, a local non-governmental organisation, through its Inclusive Early Childhood Development (IECD) project, has trained community health workers on inclusive education and delivered lectures on better treatment of disabled children.
According to Nyirahabimana, health workers have contributed a lot in fighting stigma around raising a disabled child.
“I have benefited from health cares’ support as my child’s condition has significantly changed. There is an improvement,” she said.
Valentine Mukanyarwaya, the manager of the Inclusive Early Childhood Development project in Musanze District, said that they help disabled children in different sectors of Musanze and so far 18 disabled children in Muhoza sector have been covered.
Since 2009, Strive Foundation Rwanda established 15 Early Childhood Development centres across Musanze District to serve disabled children have been benefiting.
Mukanyarwaya noted that so far 16 community health workers from Muhoza Sector have been trained to follow up on the status of children who missed ECDs services due to the fact that they are disabled.
“In our home-based ECDs, a trained health worker goes house-to-house providing services that disabled children who missed formal ECD programmes would get,” she added.