The New Times (Kigali)

29 December 2012

Rwanda: Children With Disabilities Seek Comfort, Care

Children living with disabilities have raised concerns over stigma they are subjected to in their respective communities.

Some families do not consider us like other children; we don't have equal rights like our able-bodied brothers and sisters

They say the discrimination they face starts right from their own families.

This was raised yesterday during a meeting between hundreds of children living with disabilities and officials from the National Council of People with Disability (NCPD).

"Some families do not consider us like other children; we don't have equal rights like our able-bodied brothers and sisters. If a family has two children, priority is generally given to the able-bodied one, including education needs," said Dorcase Umumararungu, a child with disability currently in secondary school.

"Disabled children are segregated against when it gets to feeding and clothing them and some parents do not want them to be where they can be seen. This should change; society should grant us our rights," she said.

She also said that teachers at schools which have children living with disabilities are yet to appreciate these rights.

"We have don't have special facilities at school, and teachers want to teach us like the rest. Some of them go as far as harassing us when we fail, which is very difficult for us," she said.

The President of the NCPD, Gaston Rusiha, confirmed the discrimination exercised against the children.

"Disabled people are discriminated against; their families do not take care of them and they lack parental education, going to school and getting the same education like their brothers or sisters. This is still a challenge despite existing efforts to promote an all-inclusive education system," Rusiha said, adding that teachers need special training on inclusive education.

He also said that parents also need to be educated about the rights of children living with disabilities.

Rusiha added that public and private institutions too needed to take this matter seriously.

"The Council is working with all the concerned parties to try and address the problem by coming up with appropriate measures," he said

Participants discussed the required advocacy for children living with disabilities, starting with parents and guardians, and then spreading the campaign to the other sections of society.

An official with the Ministry of Education Eric Niyonzima, director of policymaking and evaluation unit, said that much had been done though there is still need to further facilitate special education for these children.

He said the government has promoted special needs education, including championing special schools for children living with disabilities.

Niyonzima urged parents and teachers to give special care to children living with disabilities.

The meeting was held under the theme, "All together, uproot challenges and discrimination exercised against children with disabilities."

The National Council of People with Disabilities says it has over 580,000 members countrywide.

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