“It’s a different world of being blind but at times we have to accept the situations that encounter us. The only difference of blind people is that we just don’t see but we are the same like other people” Godbelt Niyandebanje says.
Niyandebanje is one of the students at Masaka Center for the Blind located in Masaka Kicukiro district.
She wasn’t born blind. It is three years back after accidentally taking an overdose that she lost her sight.
“I fell sick and took an overdose of fancidar tablets but I did not know that it was an overdose. It was after some weeks that I felt a heavy headache that resulted to a sudden pain in my eyes and the next thing my sight was gone,” she recalls.
Instead of wallowing in pity, she decided to overlook her disability and joined Masaka Center of the Blind.
Niyandebanje is one of the students at the school though unable to see, her belief of a bright future is undeterred by her situation. She is hopeful just like any ambitious able bodied person.
But before that, she had to endure stigmatization from her family members.
“Back home am looked at and regarded as nothing and when I try to talk they will never give me an ear the only person who would comfort me, is my father but he is insane so its my mother, but being poor she also feels like she is doing nothing in my life,” she says.
The presence of this school has given her a new hope to be someone of significance.
“I think coming to this center is going to change my life because I will go back home after my training a changed person, because I am going to be able to do something for a living” said Niyandebanje.
In 2002, Masaka Center for the Blind started with only 12 students. Over a period of twelve years it has successfully trained and equipped over 236 students. Until today, it is the only school for the blind in Rwanda
“The major objective of the center is to develop the working skills, reintegrate the blind into the society by participating into the daily activities and to train the blind to be useful in the community, said Frederic Gisanura the Director of the institution.
The students are taken through a six month session.
During the six months they go through the elementary level in which they are taught how to read and write.
After which they go on for practical studies.
Some of the vocational trainings include animal husbandry, cooking and washing.
The six months of study are in an interval of two terms.
On completion of the two terms, the finalists are equipped to go through the normal human process of searching for a livelihood.
Rame Bamenyimana, a father of ten, at the age of twelve contracted an eye condition that stripped him of his sight. For forty two years he has been blind and is among the new students at the institution. He has been there for just one month.
He mainly joined the institution to be taught how to read and write.
“Being blind doesn’t mean you are handicapped,” says Bamenyimana who hails from Rusizi district.
After hearing that there are some blind people who have resorted to begging on the streets, Niyandebanje who is studying the English language, argues that depicting from her present situation she believes they can choose to aspire for a better life.
“Why would blind people go begging yet we have such training centers which are training us to work and live a better life? First of all, it’s for free because here we are not paying school fees.
So to me, the blind people who are still having that thinking that they should go begging should change their minds and join such centers. Being blind is being in a dark world, its hard life and so painful more especially when you were not born blind,” she says.
Gisanura said that on completion, the skills imparted have helped them start self initiated projects.
“Many of our students who have successfully finished have joined associations and others have started their own business,” he said.