The University of Rwanda (UR) is for the first time set to start training teachers with specialised skills to handle children with physical or mental challenges that impair their enrollment and completion of education.
Figures show that about 10 percent of all 2,019,991 children at primary school level in 2007 had different forms of disabilities—mild or severe—with potential to disadvantage them while at school because they cannot learn at the same pace as other children.
In introducing these courses, UR has taken the first step in implementing the already long-overdue government policy of 2007 that seeks to deliver education to all children, irrespective of their mental or physical state. In drafting this policy, the government was informed by the traumatic history of the country that inflicted mental, physical and psychological damage to sections of our people.
Therefore, to ignore the special learning needs of some sections of the population would tantamount to violation of the rights of such children to education. By extension, it condemns then to a life in perpetual poverty, ignorance and disease.
As a country that strives to build a nation based on equal opportunities and without any forms of social prejudices and discrimination, it is the right thing to ensure that no child missed school because they were born blind, deaf or with a terminal illness.
Therefore, while manpower issues are being sorted, it is important to start identifying and putting in place other necessary infrastructure such as classrooms and teaching aids for that category of learners. For a start, one school per Umurenge could be fitted with such facilities and teachers.
In future, when enough capacity has been build, policymakers need to consider a section for children with special learning needs in every public school. Only then shall we achieve true universal education.