Schools of excellence to boost education for special-needs students

HVP Gatagara students. Courtesy.

At the age of 13, a year after she had just finished her primary education in a special-needs school, Anisie Byukusenge could not find a secondary school to give her specialised education since her family could not afford it.

She joined a mixed school where she was introduced to inclusive education –something she was going to do for the first time, but she was visually impaired.

Secondary school was a challenge for her because she would go for days without learning anything in class due to poor facilitation from her teachers.

Most times she was lonely since she could hardly find friends to hang out with or even talk to. And, often-times she found quiet places to lay her boredom

Facing challenges like lack of supervision from her teachers and stealing her property because she was unable to see, made her feel like dropping out of school.

For Jean Pierre Nteziryayo, head teacher at HVP Gatagara specialized school in Kicukiro district, special-needs schools are needed for easy mentorship, and effective learning. 

“A lot is needed for special-needs schools such as wheel chairs in washrooms, special infrastructural complexes, classroom setting, teacher to student ratio, among others,” he said.

Speaking to The New Times, Frank Habineza, the vice president of the parliamentary committee on social affairs, said that more efforts should be put in place to facilitate children with disabilities.

“There should be more specialized schools, because inclusive education is limited, yet there are students who can neither see nor hear, or even autistic children, and many more special cases. Therefore, to ensure proper education standards, there should be concentrated efforts to prevent any obstacles for disabled children,” Habineza pointed out.

Mary Kobusingye, a special education needs officer at the Ministry of Education, said that students with disabilities still walk long distances, leading many to not reach at school and getting discouraged,

Since there are currently only ten special-needs schools in the entire country, students find it difficult to make it to schools from their homes, at least those that get the means to enrol and commute there.

“There are parents who stigmatise their children with disabilities. They feel shamed by them and choose to hide them. It leads to low self-esteem and affects their performance in school,” said Kobusingye.

Dubbed “schools of excellence” is a policy that was approved earlier this year by the Ministry of Education, it seeks to work with both specialized and  mainstream schools and students will first be identified, assessed and then plan for their placement, in schools of excellence.

The above mentioned schools, reiterated Kobusingye, said that they will have units for students with the same disability, and be helped in union.

“Currently we are working with 10 schools, but also training teachers, while adding facilities, in those schools.”