According to Rwanda’s 2013/14-2017/18 Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP), the need for a more innovative approach to inclusive education to improve enrolment, progression, transition and completion rates of the most vulnerable population is paramount. The new competency-based curriculum calls for the use of new learner and child-friendly centred approaches for effective teaching and learning, with inclusive education as a cross-cutting orientation.
With this principal framework, the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) last year updated its policy, as well as developed a strategic plan and a teachers’ guide to inclusive and special needs education.
The Ministry’s priority is to ensure teachers become master trainers. They are provided with practical skills—in particular — activities and tools they can employ in their classrooms.
Nehemiah Bacumuwenda, the curriculum specialist in charge of pedagogical norms at Rwanda Education Board, says the Ministry has skilled master trainers empowered to train other teachers in their respective schools to test the methodology, reaching out to a total of 708 teachers countrywide.
“We have provided a manual for teachers, including practical tools and classroom activities, which was also developed prior to the training so that master trainers could test it in schools and generate useful feedback,” he says.
Bacumuwenda says that 30 district directors of education (DDEs) were also trained with the objective to educate participants on the inclusive schooling theory and methodology and build awareness of the new REB model and associated ‘Toolkit of Practical Classroom Activities’.
Dr Michael Rwibasira, the head of the Department of Examination and Accreditation, Ministry of Education, said at a recent conference in Kigali that the ‘Curriculum Approach Model’ had the objective of consulting DDEs on a proposed roll-out plan for nationwide scaling up, as well as informing them about the means to monitor and evaluate the implementation.
After the training, DDEs will acquire a practical understanding of how to implement inclusive education in schools, and knowledge and tools to oversee the implementation and evaluate progress.
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs and Research), Professor Nelson Ijumba, University of Rwanda ‘s College of Business and Economics, says that training is necessary for primary and secondary classroom teachers and that there is a need for school leaders to also gain further understanding and sensitivity on inclusive education in ensuring their schools attain the inclusive model.
Evariste Karangwa, the dean of School of Inclusive and Special Needs Education at UR’s College of Education, Rukara Campus, supports the inclusion of case studies and materials on inclusive education, specifically for strategic methods of teaching, and materials for the disabled.
He says that teachers test the materials and polish them before they are formally implemented and included in the programme’s curriculum to train teachers enrolling at University of Rwanda’s College of Education.
Karangwa says there are some challenges in the implementation of the inclusive education methodology whereby schools still lack equipment used by disabled children, and that teachers also need skills.
However, equipment is not the only challenge in the implementation of the policy, the need to have specialists would be a lasting solution. He says specialists in sign language, therapeutic assistants and speech therapists would help address hearing impaired students who also can’t speak.
Plan Boaz, a teacher at EFOTEC Kanombe Secondary School, argues that the main issue is parents who are not open to discussing the problems of the students. Some of them have eyesight problems and can’t follow the teachers writing on the blackboard, which is usually discovered after a long time of failure by the student.
Eric Josue Ishimwe, a student at UR’s College of Business and Economics, says that strengthening the capacity of teachers and the school could be unsuccessful if there are no dimensions in planning, managing and monitoring education.