Joselyne Muragijimana had a rough childhood; as a child living with ill health, she recalls the challenges all too well. And how she became disabled, remains a mystery.
It started in 2006; she was playing with classmates on that fateful day, she just collapsed. Muragijimana has been in a wheelchair since.
“It was too hard for me to move or even stand; it started with the legs, then my arms and eventually my whole body. I needed someone to help me walk and it has been like this since,” she recalls.
Muragijimana became crippled at the age of 13. This, however, did not stop her from having dreams. She wanted to one day become a journalist and be the ‘voice of the voiceless’.
Bonifilde Mukarugira, Muragijimana’s neighbour helps her when at home.
And this, she is relentlessly pursuing. In her advanced level, Muragijimana did literature and languages at HVP Gatagara in Rwamagana, and she emerged as one of the best-performing students.
She was then offered a Government scholarship and enrolled at the University of Rwanda’s School of Journalism and Communication (SJC.)
The now 24-year-old understands that a career in journalism calls for hard work but nonetheless, she is not giving up. And even though she moves in a wheelchair, Muragijimana is willing to do what it takes to be who she has always wanted to be.
“Yes, it is a field job and it requires long hours of moving around. But I still believe I can do this. I hope to focus on work that will not require me to move long distances,” she says.
She hopes to use her disability to inspire others.
The 24-year-old has a passion for journalism.
“Right from my childhood I have always planned to do journalismm for I want to be the voice of the voiceless. I also want to contribute to people’s happiness by doing stories that impact their lives,” she says.
Muragijimana is also keen on encouraging families with disabled children to help them embrace opportunities, including access to education.
Courageous and ambitious
Last month, Muragijimana submitted an application to Radio Isango Star requesting for an internship. Through this, she hopes to sharpen her skills, such as news editing.
Her choice to work with this particular radio station came from its infrastructure, which she says favours people with disabilities.
With a platform she yearns for, Muragijimana hopes to work towards fighting for gender balance, especially in newsrooms.
Eduard Mwesigye, her lecturer at University of Rwanda from level one, appreciates how courageous and ambitious Muragijimana is in class despite her disability“In class, she is so courageous and ambitious. When it comes to skill, she gets good grades, and I appreciate her spirit,” Mwesigye says.
Marie Claire Isingizwe, the class representative of level three in journalism and communication, says that Muragijimana is good at meeting deadlines and arriving in class on time. With this, she has no doubt that she will make it in fulfilling her dreams.
Her guardian angels
Christian Niyirora has been Muragijimana’s classmate facilitator for three years now. He helps her by taking her to school and when they break off, he takes her home.
Niyirora says he volunteered to do this because he understands that Muragijimana needs all the support she can get.
They met when the school’s gatekeeper called him as the class representative to go and help out with a new student, and this student turned out to be Muragijimana.
“I met Joseline at campus in 2016. I was the class representative in our first year. The gateman had called me to pick the new student from the gate; she was alone and unfamiliar to the campus, I had to accompany her to the hostel and from that day onwards, I felt it was my duty to help her,” he says.
Niyirora says that he is proud of her and also feels grateful that she is excelling in her academics.
Bonifilde Mukarugira, a neighbour who helps Muragijimana when she is at home, says she is so proud of Muragijimana.
Muragijimana is planning to have her internship in Kigali, and because she has no family here, Mukarugira is willing to leave her husband and come with her two-year-old to stay with Muragijimana during her one month of academic internship.
“I love and feel proud to help Joseline. I believe that based on how committed and resolved she is, she has a bright future ahead.”
Vivien Uwanyirigira, Muragijimana’s roommate at campus applauds her determination, noting that it is why she is so successful in her academics.
“I wake up early in the morning and I notice her reading books and doing assignments while in her bed. She passes every module and I feel happy to see her performing well. Muragijimana is fearless, courageous and intelligent. God bless the woman she is becoming,” Uwanyirigira says.
Effort to support people with disabilities
In an interview with The New Times, Emmanuel Ndayisaba, Executive Secretary of National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), said they connect people living with disabilities to access job opportunities and that they do this through projects such as initiated inclusive ICT.
This is done in different provinces so that they easily access technology that can allow them apply and do examinations or interviews easily.
Ndayisaba says that the council also encourages employers to help those who are unable to participate in the application process, by easing the process for them to apply.
He, however, notes that there is still a wrong observation of people living with disabilities when it comes to the job market. And with this, he notes that people should understand that disability is not inability.
“Those people are able and society needs their contribution.”
He notes that they are doing advocacy so that the Government may favour people living with disabilities at the workplace, for example, giving a tax discount for companies that employ workers with disabilities.
Ndayisaba also says that NCPD plans on partnering with the Ministry of Public Service and Labour to see how they will facilitate people with disabilities in terms of accessing job opportunities.
“It’s an idea which is still on the table, but we wish that in this fiscal year it is initiated into the new system and that it favours those living with disabilities.”