How community outreach programmes fight stigma for disabled school-goingchildren in Musanze

Children with physical impairments sometimes face stigma in society. Frederic Byumvuhore.

Parents in Musanze District raising children born with impairments had almost lost all hope in educating their children.

Some are vulnerable and can’t afford to take their children to school. And those who can afford it are afraid to enrol their children because of one thing—stigma. The idea that their children will be bullied and victimised has forced them to keep their children away from school.

Angelique Nyirahabimana is one of these parents. She lives in Muhoza Sector, Musanze District. Her four-year-old son suffers from a disability with his legs that has made it difficult for him to walk.

However, he is now under the Inclusive Early Childhood Education Programme. And with gratitude, Nyirahabima says that since her son joined the programme, stigma is one less thing they have to worry about.

The initiative was a result of community health workers approaching families with impaired children to train them on inclusive education and better treatment of the disabled.

The development was implemented by Strive Foundation Rwanda in partnership with Chance for Childhood, both non-governmental organisations operating in the country with the purpose of helping disabled children to access early education and creating awareness on inclusive home-based programme.

According to Valentine Mukanyarwaya, the coordinator of Inclusive Early Childhood Development at Strive Foundation Rwanda, community outreach programmes have been impactful and helpful to families with disabled children.

Mukanyarwaya says that the community health workers sensitise the community on changing their mindset about people born with physical disabilities.

“Our intention is to stop stigma and engage the community in the fight. Disabled children have rights like other children. They should all be well treated,” she says.

Jean Pierre Manzi, the executive secretary of Muhoza sector, has called on communities to treat disabled children in a positive way and care for them.

Since 2009, Strive Foundation Rwanda has established 15 ECD centres in Musanze District to promote Early Childhood Development services. 

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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