Education to change perception towards those living with disabilities

Calmness defines the place. Inside the yellow painted square shaped room, computers are assembled.  Before every computer there is a red seat and each of the seats is occupied by a student.
From left -Right Jean Mugiraneza reads with his fingers,Teophile Havugiyaremye listens while Innocent Vuguziga types on a computer(Photo L.Nakayima)
From left -Right Jean Mugiraneza reads with his fingers,Teophile Havugiyaremye listens while Innocent Vuguziga types on a computer(Photo L.Nakayima)

Calmness defines the place. Inside the yellow painted square shaped room, computers are assembled.  Before every computer there is a red seat and each of the seats is occupied by a student.

As they concentrate on their revision, the silence in the room is understandable. The only voices are those from the different computers pronouncing words loud enough for all to hear.

This is at Kigali Institute of Higher Education (KIE). The lecture room is especially meant for those with visual impairments.

About ten students with sight problems attend lectures here. Also two additional students with disabilities attend the same lecture room though theirs’ is a different case.

According to Dr.Evariste Karangwa, Rwanda has only 39 students living with disabilities in higher institutions of learning.

“The small number strongly indicates how people with different disabilities have been segregated from the community,” Dr Karangwa says.

He is the Deputy Dean of Studies in the Faculty of Education. He is also the Coordinator of the Committee for Comprehensive Learning of the Disabled in the Universities of Rwanda.

When he talks about the challenges faced by those living with disabilities, Dr Karangwa links the problems basically to the Rwandan Cultural set up.

“Accepting children with disabilities can’t be achieved single handedly. It needs many voices and efforts. Efforts like Rwanda uses against the genocide ideology or implementing gender balance,” he explains.

Though the disabled have been stigmatized by their own people, these students have gone ahead to fight the unfair hand of nature and to turn their dreams into reality.

s they revise for their forthcoming examinations, they type on their computer key boards! It’s not clear how they can type, understand and edit their work yet they don’t see!

Innocent Vuguziga explains how the blind learn. “We can read with our fingers, it’s our own language,” says the 25 year old.
Having become blind at a tender age of 5, Vuguziga was taken to a school for children with disabilities where he learnt reading with his fingers!

This system is referred to as Braille Writing or The Raised dots writing. It was introduced by a French man known as Domis Braille who had lost sight when he was over 30.

The Job Access With Sound {JAWS} computer software is another blessing to the blind. It enables them to hear whichever letter they click on the key board.

The Dolphin pen also serves the same purpose. The accessories used to educate the blind are basically those that can communicate to the ears so that the ears coordinate the message to the brain.

This being the first group of disabled people training at the University, they are more than excited to graduate and pursue their careers. Their dreams are bigger than their disabilities.

“It’s our role to change the society’s attitude towards us,” says Theophile Havugiyaremye.  Mentioning a Kinya-rwanda proverb that compares disabled people to the dead, the 24 year old will stop at nothing to show the world what he is capable of.

As some are looking forward to being excellent language teachers in future others have taken a step to think bigger.

“I will be a great musician advocating for the disadvantaged, especially the blind,” says Aphrodice Kabarebe.

He dreams of bridging the gap between normal people and the disabled. According to him, the disabled would be thriving higher if they had been given the same priorities like others.

“Many disabled children are in villages and they are not attending school. Their own parents and society have neglected them.”

As they continue learning, the disabled people are more than hopeful to change the bias most of the community has towards them. With education as the key, the blind will change their world.

“We shall always face the present with courage, we won’t be shy about the past and will always face the future with determination and hope,” says Havugiyamuremye.

Ends

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