EDITORIAL: Expedite the construction of special needs schools in districts

Last year, the Government revised the national special needs and inclusive education policy and its strategic plan.

The five-year strategy, which runs up to the 2023/24 fiscal year, is part of the wider ambition to increase and sustain investment in the country’s socio-economic development.

Particularly, commitment to educating and training all educationally vulnerable children and youths has been billed to be critical.

Yet, parliamentarians, students, teachers and parents alike continue to raise complaints about sustained challenges that students with special needs face.

For instance, recently parliament raised concern over the shortage of schools for students with special needs, which keeps some students out of school.

Rwanda has only 10 schools for students with special needs.

We understand, through parliament, that there’s a plan to roll out at least a special needs school in each district.

However, the implementation process has been slow.

In an effort to promote inclusive education, some mixed schools cater for students with special needs, which has boosted enrollment over time.

Moreover, some problems such as the shortage of equipment like wheel chairs in washrooms, special infrastructural complexes, inappropriate classroom setting, and the low level of teacher-to-student ratio have persisted.

In addition, the schools are faulted for being expensive while the teachers are grappling with skills shortage.

Another challenge that has been raised is that students with special needs are stigmatised by their fellow learners. This affects their learning process, and lead to dropout and hence needs to be tacked.

While we are aware that the Government is aware of these challenges and has developed a comprehensive strategic plan to that effect, we encourage policymakers and responsible officials to expedite the implementation of the interventions.

The education sector strategic plan accurately states that the achievements of Rwanda’s socioeconomic development objectives will depend, to a large degree, on the development of its most valuable resource—its people.