Rwanda: Braille and Sign Language Curriculum to Be Introduced in Schools

Braille (file photo).

The Rwanda Basic Education Board (REB) is set to roll out a Competence Based Curriculum (CBC) for special needs children - with visual impairment and the ones with hearing loss - a curriculum that will be part of a unit called special needs and inclusive education.

The special curriculum will start with the next academic year.

Nelson Mbarushimana, Director General of REB said they are working with different partners in developing the curriculum that will be followed by recruiting, and professional training of teachers at national level who will teach these subjects.

"Previously, these lessons were taken, but we did not have a curriculum for them, the learners followed a curriculum developed by partners like UNICEF, but now this curriculum will be aligned with the national programmes, this means all learners will follow a uniform curriculum but in a language that is inclusive for all," he said.

"The ultimate goal is to enable learners with intellectual challenges due to their disabilities, to maximize their opportunities in learning to develop their optimal capacity so they can live as independently as they can."

He added: "We now have braille and sign language officers, which is new, these are the people who will be in charge of developing the curriculum, training the teachers and making sure it is enrolled in the special-needs schools." Mbarushimana added.

Donatella Kanimba, Executive Director of the Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB) said it was high time REB introduced this curriculum, because education should be accessible to all Rwandan children and no one should be left behind.

"Right now we have different kinds of braille from very many countries and Rwanda does not have one, and this was a problem for example Home de la Vierge des Pauvres (HVP) Gatagara in Rwamagana teaches a combination of French and English braille mixed, and Educational Institute for Blind Children in Kibeho only teaches English braille, and other schools teach different braille." She said.

"With the introduction of braille in this new curriculum, all schools will learn one braille and children will be able to sit comfortably for their national examinations, because it used to be hard for them but also the examination council because they did not know which braille to use."

Emmanuel Ndayisaba, the Executive Secretary of National Council of Persons with Disabilities, said the new sign language dictionary that will have more than 2000 signs is expected to be ready in September.

"The project of the new sign language dictionary was stalled due to lack of professionals, but now we found someone who will complete the project," he said.

"With our partners like REB we expect the new dictionary to be used in schools to help not only the children with hearing loss but also their teachers, and improve the curriculum, the dictionary will be accessed electronically and can be used by everyone who wishes to access it." Ndayisaba said.

Speaking to The New Times, Father Jules Maurice Ntirenganya the Director of HVP Gatagara in Rwamagana District said this curriculum will help all the children with visual impairments because it will be uniform in all schools and can help them in interacting with each other.

"We currently have 162 students who study braille, and the biggest challenge for these children has been accessing braille books, when they distribute books to schools we have to translate them to braille ourselves, we hope this new curriculum will also include the provision and easy access of braille books in libraries because they really help our learners." he said.

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