By Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti
It is about 11 a.m. at G S Rwisirabo in Karangazi sector, Nyagatare district.
Promise Manzi sits in the classroom following lessons. He is reliant on a slate and stylus he uses to take notes in braille. Manzi is the only visually impaired person in P4 class at this school.
He follows the teacher attentively and responds to the teacher’s questions.
“Air is a mixture of gases,” Manzi defines air, in response to the teacher’s question.
Born blind due to illness from her mother, Manzi’s parents were supportive but never thought that he could access education because they knew no single school that could accommodate him.
But now, the parents are excited that their 11-year-old son is at GS Rwisirabo and accessing his right to education.
GS Rwisirabo has embraced inclusive education promoted by the Rwanda Union of the Blind through the DREAM project. It is aimed to break down barriers and ensure visually impaired children are not left out of education.
“I study well without major challenges. My facilitator sent by RUB who is also visually impaired assists me in taking notes and learning braille. He is always available whenever I need support,” Manzi says.
Rwanda Union of the Blind deployed one, Jean Claude Mpagaritwenimana to assist Manzi to study flawlessly.
Mpagaritwenimana’s roles include supporting Manzi to take notes, read and write in braille. He also supports school teachers to learn how to read and write in braille and on how to cater for learners with visual impairment in an inclusive classroom.
Manzi started primary school at Kibeho Educational Institute for the blind Children; a school which is located in Nyaruguru district – Southern Province, over 320 kilometers away from his home in Nyagatare district.
For Edmond Ntagwabira, Manzi’s father, the journey to Nyaruguru was scary.
“Travelling to and from Kibeho was so tiring and costly in terms of transport. Kibeho is very far and whenever my son was at school there was no communication for the entire term, I was always worried,” he said.
“But thanks to RUB support, Manzi was transferred to a nearby school at GS Rwisirabo; an inclusive school and he gets assistance from RUB. I am so thankful that my child is fully supported to access education close to his home,” he added.
Despite visual impairment, Manzi excels in class.
In fact, he was the best student in P2, P3 and only one pupil beat him in the first term of P4 to become the second in class.
“I am determined. I experience difficulties in Math but I also try my best. I have been occupying the first position and slipped a little bit in the first term, but I am putting in all the efforts to retain my position,” Manzi says.
Thanks to the DREAM project, Manzi has got a dream.
“My dream is to become a pianist, an actor, or a journalist. I am working hard to achieve it,” he says.
RUB is promoting inclusive education through the DREAM project, according to Dr. Donatilla Kanimba, the Executive Director of the Rwanda Union of the Blind.
She noted that when people talk about inclusive education, they want to include those with physical disabilities only and claim that this is inclusive enough.
But RUB engaged the National Union for People with Disabilities in Rwanda (NUDOR) to make them truly inclusive among established inclusive schools “We joined hands with NUDOR to make the schools truly inclusive because they were not, there were no learners with visual impairments, there were no learners with hearing impairments, so that means no learners with sensory impairments,” she said.
RUB sent volunteers to 3 inclusive model schools and the schools were encouraged to enroll children with a visual impairment from the surrounding areas.
The volunteers were tasked to teach the children to read and write in braille and also support the teachers in braille literacy and show them how best to support the learners with visual impairment.
“So far I can say that the results have been quite amazing,” Dr. Kanimba added.