Barriers in the educational system for students with disabilities in Rwanda

By Esther Muhozi
On 17 April 2024 at 04:27

Students with disabilities require special consideration within educational systems. In Rwanda, the policy mandates that they attend the same schools as their non-disabled peers. However, the number of teachers trained to address their specific needs remains insufficient.

Rwanda’s special education policy asserts that integrating students with disabilities alongside those without disabilities promotes mutual understanding and learning.

The law requires that all educational facilities be accessible to the handicapped. Yet, despite these regulations, disparities persist. According to the 2022 census, about 65% of children with disabilities aged 6 to 17 attend school, compared to 81% of non-disabled children.

Statistics from 2022 also reveal a total of 38,937 students with disabilities enrolled in schools, including 17,322 boys and 21,615 girls.

Following the establishment of the special education program, new schools have been constructed, and existing facilities have been upgraded to better accommodate students with disabilities. Nonetheless, older school buildings still present accessibility challenges, requiring additional support for these students.

A report to the General Assembly of Deputies in April 2024 highlighted ongoing issues, such as the absence of specialized instructional materials for students with disabilities in some schools.

Deputy Uwamariya Veneranda, Chairperson of the Commission for Education, Technology, Youth, and Culture, commented on the infrastructural deficiencies in schools, noting the existence of older buildings that do not comply with current educational standards.

By 2022, the number of schools lacking the necessary infrastructure and equipment to support disabled students decreased from 3,955 in 2017 to 1,541.

In addition to mainstream schools, students with disabilities often attend under-resourced schools, receiving the same instruction as their non-disabled peers.

Starting in May 2024, the Ministry of Education intends to provide various educational aids to students with disabilities, including televisions, calculators, video literacy tools, maps, and 60 laptops.

Furthermore, in April 2024, three thousand curricula designed specifically for students with mental disabilities will be published. From 2025 to 2027, a specialized book covering these curricula is also slated for publication.

The plan includes comprehensive training for all teachers to better support students with diverse disabilities. Although the number of trained teachers is increasing—from 12,243 in 2020/2021 to 15,569 in the following year—the total is still markedly low.

While the Ministry of Education has not set a definitive deadline for the completion of teacher training, it is committed to ensuring that it will occur.

Since 2015, the University of Rwanda has offered a secondary education teaching course specializing in disabilities. To date, 957 individuals have graduated, with 91 pursuing university-level studies and seven at the doctoral level in this field.

With the integration of this specialized training across all educational institutions, the goal is to equip all teachers with the skills necessary to educate students with disabilities effectively. As the student population grows, the number of teachers across Rwanda continues to increase, emphasizing the ongoing need for specialized educational support.

Students with disabilities require special consideration within educational systems.