Seated next to her parents in Musanze District, Alice Mugwaneza’s face beams with excitement. “What could be the reason?” I ask myself.
But I shortly learn from her parents that the 19-year-old has excelled in last year’s Primary Leaving Examinations scoring aggregate 8.
Mugwaneza’s speech and hearing impairment subjected her to stigma, including from her teachers.
When getting a school to accommodate her became a problem, Mugwaneza’s parents took her to study in Uganda.
However, due to financial and other challenges, Mugwaneza’s stay in Uganda was short-lived. Her parents decided that they had no choice but to let their daughter sit at home.
And yet the desire to see their child excel in life kept burning in their hearts. After some years, according to Xavier Munyakabaya, Mugwaneza’s father, they found a school that agreed to take her on in her state.
“She joined Wisdom Nursery and Primary School from where she eventually sat her PLE last year,” Munyakabaya says, adding that Mugwaneza had never imagined that she could even go that far in education.
How she survived
Mugwaneza, the third born in a family of seven, says although some teachers were helpful, most of them were reluctant to help her owing to her physical challenges. But that could not kill her committment to succeed.
“I always looked at the blackboard, at the teacher’s lips and gestures to get an idea about what they were saying. I also taught some students sign language so that they could explain to me certain concepts,” Mugwaneza said through her mother who was interpreting the sign language.
The teenager said that much as her journey was punctuated with many hurdles, she never repeated a single class.
“I struggled to prepare for my exams. It is harder when you are studying with normal pupils,” she scribbled in my notebook.
Attributing her success to God, parents, her hard work, teachers and classmates, Mugwaneza says she hopes she can find a secondary school for children with special needs so that her dream for a better future is not shattered.
Despite the challenging childhood, Mugwaneza continues to aspire for a brighter future like any other child.
“I want to become an accountant or medical doctor. I am confident my dream will come true one day,” Mugwaneza says.
Her father said she was given a chance to enroll at HVP Gatagara Nyanza, a school of deaf and mute students.
He is optimistic his daughter will no longer have to struggle since she will be studying with students who have got similar challenges.