The World Health Organization estimates there are 19 million children around the world who are blind or have low vision. The majority of these children do not have access to quality education or assistive technology.
In Rwanda, there are an estimated 400,000 people with visual impairments, the majority of them youth. The Rwandan government has made progress towards promotion of the rights of people with disabilities since ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008. In 2018, at the U.K. Global Disability Summit, they made a commitment to finalize and adopt an Inclusive and Special Education Policy and to develop a costed implementation plan for it by 2020. In January this year, the government adopted the Policy and plan ahead of schedule.
The Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB), a Disability Rights Advocacy Fund (DRAF) grantee, has been following-up on the government’s process of operationalising the Policy. In June, RUB participated in a Technical Workshop on Inclusive Education, organized by the Rwandan Education Board with support from USAID, to “explore the goals and activities for the implementation plan for the revised Special Needs and Inclusive Education Policy (2019).”
RUB also conducted a mapping at district level to assess the status of education of students with visual impairments and to document barriers faced by persons with blindness or low-vision. Their mapping uncovered ongoing barriers, including lack of appropriate learning materials, lack of trained teachers, and lack of a monitoring system for implementation of Special Needs Education and Inclusive Education. This data is important as the government proceeds to operationalize the Inclusive and Special Education Policy, and RUB is sharing findings with the Ministry of Education and the Rwandan Education Board.
Finally, RUB is advocating that the Rwandan Government ratify the Marrakesh Treaty so that persons with blindness or low-vision have access to educational content on an equal basis with others. This work is critical to ensure no one is left behind.