Covid-19 restrictions hurt students with disabilities

Leave a comment / By: manifel / 29 January, 2021 11:24:53AM
Covid-19 restrictions hurt students with disabilities

Almost two weeks after the government gave a green light to schools to start admitting nursery and lower primary students, some children with disabilities are still stuck at home after they failed to find transportation means due to the ban on inter-district movements.

In a telephone interview with this publication, the Executive Secretary, National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), Emmanuel Ndayisaba, said that although their schools have collaborated in providing lists that can be relied on to transport them, the institution will have a clearer picture of the status of this issue by the end of this week. 

“We received lists from schools and we worked with local authorities and an NGO called Humanity & Inclusion International to get them to school. We are waiting for the end of this week to see if there is anyone left. I have only heard one person calling me to complain but, otherwise, I think it is progressing well,” he said. 

Challenges in process 

According to the Communications Officer at Human &Inclusion International; Jacques Mugisha, of the six schools that provided student details, 81 per cent of these children have been supported and they are now at school.

However, he said that he could not confirm whether these are the only schools that needed this support or if the students that have been reached are the only ones.

“We are using the database of the schools that reached out. In total, these were 138 students. We managed to get 81 per cent of these but we do not know if the other schools knew whether this kind of support was available,” he said.

He explained that the organisation had not managed to help all the students mentioned on these lists as some could not be tracked down since they didn’t have updated contacts while in other cases, the parents did not have all that was required for the students to start.

He said that to facilitate transportation, the organisation provided cars and some of their staff who would pick up the children from the nearest accessible point and drive them to school.

More support

Mugisha called for more support to these children, especially during the ever-changing Covid-19 times.

“Normally the Ministry says that children that age should not study far from their sector but because there are not enough schools for children with special needs, they mostly have to go to another province to access education. There should be special ways to facilitate them to make it easier for them to get to school,” he said.

Absent children

The Operations Manager of ‘Empowering Children with Disabilities’ a local NGO that runs Nyabihu School of the Deaf; Eric Ngabo Bizimana, says that only 27 children of the 42 that were expected have shown up for lessons.

He explained that the children that are in school are the ones that are from neighbouring districts like Musanze and Rubavu but transport costs had forced others from making the journey.

“Their families would have to hire special means and they simply can’t afford that. There are places where bicycles and motorcycles could be used but it is risky and costly to use such means when transporting minors,” he said.

He pointed out that this means that the school now has the challenge of delivering lessons at a slower pace due to fears of leaving those who have not turned up far behind.

He however added that should they eventually make it to school, the teachers are expected to take them through the lessons so that they can catch up.

Working with local authorities

The Special Needs Education Specialist at the Ministry of Education, Mary Kobusingye, said that there had been challenges in reaching some of the students especially those from remote areas but efforts were being put into working with local authorities to follow up.

“Most students have gone to school although I cannot really deny that there could be some that have not done so as yet. We are working with local government officials on the grassroots level and NCPD focal persons in those areas to keep track of any child who may have not had the chance to be driven to school,” she said.

In 2019, the government approved the “Schools of Excellence” policy that aims at working with both specialized and mainstream schools and to identify, assess and then plan for placement of special needs children, in schools of excellence.

The schools will have units for students with the same disability where they can be helped in unison.


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