Chance for Childhood has been working in Rwanda since 2009 to support vulnerable children, including those who were orphaned by the genocide or have hearing impairments and learning difficulties.
The Rwandan genocide of 1994 continues to have a lasting impact on this country. With over 800,000 killed in just 100 days, millions of children were left orphaned. Due to the genocidaires’ policy of encouraging HIV+ people to rape victims, many more children have since been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS.
There is also a lot of stigma around deafness and disability in Rwanda and elsewhere in Africa. Parents often hide their children away at home as a result — creating a vicious cycle of exclusion, poverty and further stigma.
Education and life skills for deaf and hearing-impaired children
There’s very few school facilities set up for deaf children in Rwanda, and parents often choose to spend their precious money on sending their other children to school instead.
Without any means of communication, deaf children are often trapped in a world of their own and are very vulnerable to adults who abuse or rape them knowing there’s no way the child can tell anyone.
What we’re doing
The Deaf School
We support a school for deaf and hearing impaired children, the only school of its kind in the district.
Our deaf school provides a safe haven and environment for learning and development for deaf and hearing impaired children. We not only teach children the national primary age syllabus but we also help them to develop sign language and lip reading (in English and Kinyarwandan!) to help them communicate better with their peers.
We’re really pleased that last year six children from our deaf school had progressed so well in their lip reading skills that they were able to integrate with the local mainstream primary school.
British Paralympian gold medalist and Chance for Childhood patron Sophie Christiansen visited our work in Rwanda. Read her blog on the Guardian here.
Education, Equality and Empowerment for children with disabilites
The number of children and youth with disabilities in Rwanda is widely debated. The lack of reliable data is just one of the many barriers that exist to enabling children and young people get access to the education and support that they need to lead a normal life, free from stigma and with access to education.
Children with special learning needs are excluded from the school system due not only to stigma, but also to inadequate school facilities and inclusive education training for state school teachers.
What we’re doing
In January 2013, we launched our Education Equality and Empowerment project which saw the expansion of our work across three northern, rural districts in Rwanda. First, we have been generating reliable statistics about children and youth with disabilities through a community mapping process.
In 2013, we found 8,117 people living with impairments. 63% were over the age of 25 years. Of the remaining 37% aged 3-25, 841 people were found to have a hearing or communication impairment (many of which were found to have multiple impairments). Download the report here.
We are supporting children with special learning needs by training teachers to provide inclusive education as well as piloting a scheme of classroom based learning support assistants – the only approach of its kind in Rwanda.
We are also working in communities to reduce stigma and improve attitudes towards children and young people with disabilities. In 2013 we reached 6,500 people through our community events and in 2014 we launched a series of school clubs and competitions, designed to promote the inclusion of children with special learning needs through music and drama.