Visually impaired students hope for a brighter future

It is wonderful seeing how a visually impaired person reads or writes without the use of physical eyesight. One wonders how they write and they read. As Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti writes,the loss of sight seems to be compensated for by an enhanced sense of touch as seen by their use of fingers to read and write. The sense of sight is clearly one of the most important and much more important when one is a learner. Losing this sense is always a problem especially when it happens later on in life. Some of visually impaired people develop stigma once they lose their sight thinking it is the end of the world for them.
Students of Groupe Scholaire de Gahini. Education Times/Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti
Students of Groupe Scholaire de Gahini. Education Times/Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti

It is wonderful seeing how a visually impaired person reads or writes without the use of physical eyesight. One wonders how they write and they read. As Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti writes,

the loss of sight seems to be compensated for by an enhanced sense of touch as seen by their use of fingers to read and write.


The sense of sight is clearly one of the most important and much more important when one is a learner. Losing this sense is always a problem especially when it happens later on in life. Some of visually impaired people develop stigma once they lose their sight thinking it is the end of the world for them.

Some of them however have not allowed this to hold them back and have joined schools where special needs are properly taken care of. These have gone on to study from primary to university as normal students, they have been affected differently but they all share the same hope of a bright future.

It is wonderful seeing how a visually impaired person reads or writes without the use of physical eyesight. One wonders how they write and read. The loss of sight seems to be compensated for by an enhanced sense of touch as seen by their use of fingers to read and write.

They write using their Braille writing machine whereby they touch what the machine has typed on a tough paper. When they are writing, the one using a pen can’t finish before them and it applies even when reading.

Some visually impaired students from HVP Gatagara in Rwamagana and Groupe Scolarire de Gahini both in the Eastern Province talked to The New Times expressed their feelings before and after they get disabled. However some of them were born blind and didn’t have any comparison.

Frederick Habarugira, 30 and a second year student at HVP Gatagara said that he lost sight in 2005 when he was shot by burglars who broke into his home. He remained hopeless until 2010 when he joined Masaka Rehabilitation Center in Kicukiro.

“It was not easy to believe that my life would again be okay as I thought without eyes I could do nothing. I thought I was going to be a burden to the family as well as society,” Habarugira narrates.

“I heard over the radio that there are schools teaching people with visual impairment and I joined Masaka Rehabilitation Center where a was taught how to write in Braille, and after 6 months I joined this [HVP Gitagara] school,” he says

“I now study well and hope my future is bright despite my age, I hope I will finish secondary as well as university, I hope I will make it and become an environmentalist,” says Frederick. For people thinking we need sympathy of any kind, they are mistaken as we are able to do most of activities such as washing, cleaning, cooking and I can iron all my clothes for myself,” he adds

Zachalie Dushimirimana, 17, and a senior one student at Groupe Scholaire de Gahini secondary school said he became visually impaired when he was only eight months as he was told by his parents.

“My parents didn’t want me to study saying a visually impaired child can’t study. They didn’t also treat me like others. I used to cry and ask them to take me to school too. I went in a primary school where I used to learn theoretically and my exams were oral ones,” Dushimirimana remembers.

“We now have machines we use and we use our fingers to read, we also have ICT and can use internet as others do. If I manage to complete my university studies I will be a teacher or lecturer,” he adds

For visually impaired people, they use various software with voices installed in computers that guide them for each operation they do. Whenever they navigate with their computers the software speaks to them and they can know where they are.

Information from both HVP Gatagara and Groupe Scholaire de Gahini reveals that visually impaired students tend to have better performance compared to other people without this challenge. For instance last year in HVP Gatagara 5 out of 11 students passed O ’level exams while 4 out of 17 passed in primary leaving exams.

“I am sure that my future is bright despite all the challenges, the kind of disability I have has become a kind of motivation in turn, I know that when I don’t study hard I won’t get any means to survive, I aim high and the sky is the limit,” says Uwiringiyimana Neema 17 and a S. 1 student at Groupe Scholaire de Gahini.

Challenges

Despite more efforts by the Government, parents and sponsors to support visually impaired people and the will of the affected to continue their studies, there are still a number of challenges on the road ahead.

For instance the equipment and materials that they use daily is quite expensive and can only be imported. The white canes they use for mobility are also expensive and most of the above materials are got from donors.

More importantly special needs’ schools in Rwanda are still very few to cater for those with such challenges. Students still come from very far to study in the Eastern Province which ads extra cost in terms of transport to and from the school.

“As we study literature, it is very difficult to pass as we are asked about various novels in exams yet we never read them. Normal people have the same novel they read and we sit the same exams, we should get the same translated books,” said Erenestine Umutoni a S5 languages student.

According to the Executive Secretary of Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB), the number of visually impaired students enrolled in school is still very low due to inadequate support. “We are unable to enrol all the students due to limited funds. But we still have a significant number of people whom we need in school,” said Kanima.

According to Jean Maurice Muhire, dean of studies at HVP Gatagara, the students get difficulties in adaptation only but after that they behave like normal people or even better.

“How they perform is inspiring, no one can think they can do better at the beginning. They are also talented enough especially oral talent such as singing and expressing themselves through speeches and we often organize internal competitions to motivate them,” he said

The school also has a media club which helps them to organise different activities.

How they sit for National exams.

Visually impaired people sit for the same exam as normal people but for them they are not given drawings and maps interpretation. Instead, they are given extra questions to cover for that section.

Their exams are translated in Braille for them to do but again translated back to normal writing, mixed with other copies and marked without bias. So far over 20 visually impaired people have completed university and some are gainfully employed.

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