Children with disabilities in the country find it hard to access education due to various challenges, according to a new report.
The study was conducted by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and National Council of People with Disabilities (NCPD) in three districts of Rulindo, Ngoma and Gisagara.
It was done in collaboration with districts and coordinators in the ‘disability movement’ from different sectors.
The report, released on Wednesday at a workshop in Kigali, shows that 637 children with disability in these districts were registered to have never gone to school while others were able to go to school at some point but later dropped out.
It shows that there are fewer girls with disability, at 253 compared to boys of 369.
A big number of girls who happened to enroll in school were found to have been bullied while at school which is also one of the reasons most disabled children chose to leave school.
Other reasons why such children were not in school include poverty, parents’ misconception about their children with any form of disability.
Parents often believe disabled children lack capacity to succeed in school like able-bodied children.
According to the report, mothers were seen as the biggest caretakers of children with disability, at 73 per cent.
Speaking at the workshop, Takashi Shimizu, JICA advisor to NCPD, urged parents, especially fathers, to change their negative attitudes about children with disability.
He called on society to give these children all the care they deserve, including giving them education if they are to make contribution to national development, emphasising that disability doesn’t mean inability.
“As parents, we must be the foundation on which our children derive confidence, encouragement and support. So we must endeavour to provide for all their needs as required, including education because if more children with disability keep out of school Rwanda’s future generation might be bleak,” he noted.
Shimizu also called on the public to take it as their responsibility to take care of children with disability in their surroundings as this will help the children feel loved and fit in society like any other people.
With support from community leaders, heads of school and other stakeholders, Gisagara District registered 204 children with disability, Ngoma District 253 and Rulindo 1802.
Heads of school admitted there were challenges related to special facilities for children with disability such as toilets, structures, trained teachers.
They argued this was partly responsible for school dropout.
Most schools that were visited during the survey were found with toilets hard to access by disabled children due to narrow entrance, with no space for a wheel chair.
Because of these conditions, the children prefer to quit school.
Emmanuel Ndayisaba, the Executive Secretary of NCPD, called for intervention to help keep children with disability in school.
“Disabled children have a right to education so their rights are violated when they are not given opportunity to attend school,” said Ndayisaba.
He called on heads of school to ensure facilities and services suitable for children with disabilities are in place, such as infrastructure and special needs teachers.
He also urged the public to change their mindset about children with disability.