In 2019 we are hoping to embark on the next phase of our work with people who have disabilities. We have decided to call this project ‘The Alivera Project’, in memory of a special little girl who David met early on in his time in Rwanda. Here he is telling the story at our recent 10th birthday celebrations.
Alivera was one of six children living with her mother in a remote village high up in the Nyungwe Rainforest. Alivera had epilepsy and her mother would leave her at home while she went out to the fields to work. If Alivera had a fit while she was alone she would fall into the fire and when David first met her, she was covered in burns and bruises. Rwanda Aid tried to improve things for Alivera but over the next few years Alivera became too much for her Mother to cope with and when David saw her next, she was starving. At this point Alivera was taken to our dispensary in Kamembe, but it was too late and she sadly passed away. Alivera was a lovely little girl, in no way sorry for herself and with an amazing spirit. We gave her a pretty dress when she came to Kamembe and she was delighted with it! In her final days she told us she was looking forward to playing her guitar and singing with the angels. We hope that our work this year will give her something to sing about! Below are the details of how we hope our project will unfold.
THE ALIVERA PROJECT – SEPTEMBER 2018
The Rwanda Ministry of Education policy on special needs and inclusive education sets some broad and admirable targets but is a little thin on the detail as to how these are to be achieved.
The policy divides disability into four categories:
- Physical disabilities/motor disability
- Hearing disability
- Visual disability
- Learning disability
In our opinion the last category needs to be subdivided into “mild to moderate” and “profound” learning disabilities.
It picks out the following key factors in helping children with disability access effective education:
- Reduce the distance children have to travel to school by providing more schools
- Help parents to understand the nature and causes of different types of disability.
- Sensitise parents of children with disability to understand that their children can access and benefit from schooling/training.
- Provide additional classrooms and teachers so that children with disability can be taught in smaller groups.
- Train all teachers in the skills involved in including children with disability and special needs.
- Ensure that each primary and secondary school has at least one male and one female teacher with additional skills in support, training and counselling.
- Provide special teaching equipment
- Provide special facilities such as ramps and WCs
- Provide alternative schooling for the “small number” of children whose disability is such that they cannot access mainstream schooling
- Increase the opportunity for vocational training
Under the title, “THE ALIVERA PROJECT”, Rwanda Aid proposes to support the implementation of the Government policy of inclusion in the district of Nyamasheke over a five-year period. The aim would be to provide a blueprint for implementation in other districts through the country.
What Rwanda Aid cannot do.
- Provision for blind children. At present these children require residential schooling and specialist care which is beyond the means of RA to provide, even in a pilot scheme
- Provide specialist teachers in each school for support and counselling. Again, this is beyond the means of RA and should be the responsibility of Mineduc
- Provide effective long-term care for young people with profound disability
What Rwanda Aid has done in the districts of Nyamasheke.
- Built over 25 classrooms reducing the distance children have to travel to school and reducing class size
- Provided WCs and washrooms in schools with provision for the disabled
- Provided outreach training for parents in the understanding and care of children with disability
- Provided in-service training for classroom teachers in the inclusion of children with disability
- Supported a residential school for children with hearing disability, physical disability and mild to moderate disability with the aim of helping as many as possible access mainstream schooling
- Set up a pilot Semi-Inclusive Learning Unit to support children with mild to moderate learning disability in mainstream primary school
- Provided bursary support for those children with disability who have qualified for secondary school and university
- Supported two vocational training centres with bursaries for young people with disability
What Rwanda Aid proposes to do in the future.
Rwanda Aid proposes to develop a more thorough-going and systematic programme of support for young people living with disability (YPLWD) in Nyamasheke.
This project would aim to provide a blueprint for the implementation of the Government policy for special needs and inclusion. It is proposed to call this project The Alivera project.
We seek to work with Rwandan professionals in social work, education, healthcare and government to improve their skills and empower them to lead this work.
THE ALIVERA PROJECT
Assess the approximate number of children between the ages of 4 and 18 in the following categories:
- Serious physical disability, especially with the inability to walk
- Profound hearing disability
- Mild to moderate learning disability
- Profound learning disability
This data has already been collected on physical disability. Of the total population of Nyamasheke of just under 300 000 (2012) the survey revealed just under 500 young people living with physical disability. More than half of these do not attend school.
Working on the assumption that 6% of a population are YPLWD it is likely that there are at least 18 000 in Nyamasheke, many of whom are unable to access schooling. This is a hugely disadvantaged group of young people
FORMULATE AND EXECUTE A PLAN OF ACTION
In partnership with Nyamasheke, develop a three-year action plan for meeting the needs of the children in the four categories.
The measures we might be recommending and supporting might be as follows:
ACCESS TO SCHOOLING
- Improved access to school via public transport
- Provision of wheelchairs
- Build additional classrooms with disabled access
- Improved access to school with ramps and wide doors
- Build washroom and toilet facilities with disabled access
- Develop a mentor scheme
- Physiotherapy support
- Teaching signing to children, parents and teachers
- Provision of signing assistants
- Explore the use of hearing aids.
Mild to moderate learning disability
- Development of semi-inclusive learning units in primary schools with specially trained teachers. As yet, the Rwanda Education Board has not accepted these, finding them discriminatory. We will need to demonstrate the effectiveness of the pilot scheme.
- Train all teachers in effective differentiation and inclusion supported by the mentor programme
- Encourage use of IEPs
- Provide specialist teaching equipment
Profound mental disability
It is proposed to set up a small unit in NNV which will provide short term care for children with profound mental disability and their parents. The aim would be for these children to return home after a maximum of three months with their parents having a better understanding of how to care for them.
Set up a bursary fund to support for children with disability who have successfully completed nine years primary school to enable them to access secondary school and university.
THE TRAINING CENTRE
Ngwino Nawe Village (NNV)
RA’s greatest financial investment in disability over the past ten years has been its support for residential care at NNV. RA bought the land, built the infrastructure, equipped the centre and supported Ngwino Nawe Association (NNA) to run it on a ten-year lease. This lease is due for renewal in May 2019, which presents an opportunity to reflect on the centre’s success over the past decade and plan for how it can best be integrated into future work in the field of disability. NNV is seen as an RA project by many of our supporters in the UK and we have presented it in a very positive light. We must use this as a springboard for broadening and improving what we do for people living with disability. We should strive for a positive ‘divorce’ from NNA.
In the long term the centre must deliver the best outcomes for young people living with disability (YPLWD), to meet RA’s high standards in the local context and within Rwandan Government policy. RA considers that this is the right moment to begin to make significant changes to the type of care offered and the way it is delivered.
Over the years we have seen the remarkable benefits that children enjoy from integration to mainstream education, their families and communities. Please see the examples of Berchimas and Elizabeth (attached).
The residential nature of NNV limits the number of children living with disability that can be supported and this support can only be given for a finite time. A more robust and sustainable approach to reintegration is needed
The leasehold arrangement with the Ngwino Nawe Association runs out after ten years in early 2019. It is suggested that this lease should not be renewed. Instead it is proposed that Rwanda Aid, in partnership with Nyamasheke district, should develop a centre which will increasingly concentrate on short term daily and residential training and treatment, with the target of helping YPLWD to be cared for in their homes, in school and in the community. This accords with Rwandan government’s policy of moving away from institutional care.
However, it is understood that this process will take time so RA is committed to providing residential care for deaf children and for children with mild to moderate learning disability until such time as adequate care is available to those children in their homes and local schools. Initially we envisage supporting fifty such children who have been assessed as being capable of accessing main stream primary school with the necessary support and after a maximum of two years at the training centre,
In addition to this the Training Centre will begin to provide the following:
- a unit to which parents/teachers bring YPLWD to be assessed and supported
- training for parents and volunteers to establish a better understanding of disability, and effective ways of providing support. Both daily and short term residential courses would be provided
- training for teachers in the effective inclusion of YPLWD
- teacher resource centre
- physiotherapy training and support
- signing training
- counselling and emotional support for families
The existing NNV buildings will require some modification and modernisation, but apart from the short and medium term residential support, they will provide space for meetings, residential accommodation for short-term treatment and training, office accommodation, kitchen and washing/toilet facilities.
Whilst we believe that this will provide an excellent means of promoting and enabling the inclusion of YPLWD throughout the district, there remains a further problem which needs to be addressed. It is our experience that even when YPLWD have successfully completed schooling or training, they find it very difficult to find employment. There is a widespread assumption that children with disability are unable to contribute in the workplace.
Rwanda Aid seeks to dispel this myth whilst at the same time generating financial support for the whole Alivera project.
Rwanda aid currently supports a number of YPLWD at the EAR vocational training centre in Ntendezi. It now plans to provide initial employment for these and other YPLWD who have completed their training successfully.
If the district is able to give the land adjacent to Ngwino Nawe to Rwanda Aid, we will undertake to build a small village designed to provide temporary accommodation and employment opportunities for YPLWD. It is planned that once these young people have established themselves in the workplace, they should be provided with grants to set up similar workshops in their own villages.
Initially the village would provide the following facilities:
3 houses to provide temporary accommodation for up to 24 YPLWD
A café and kitchen to be mainly staffed by YPLWD
Good quality toilets and washrooms
3 well-equipped workshops to provide employment for YPLWD. These will cover carpentry, craft (including knitting and sewing) and shoe-making
In order to move ahead with this project we would need the following absolute commitments from the district of Nyamasheke:
- Provide land officially registered in the name of the District or Rwanda Aid on which to build the houses, workshops and café. This land would be provided free of all rent and rates
- Initially RA would accept the responsibility for running the training centre and village, but it would to do this in partnership with the District and on the understanding that the district will gradually assume the responsibility and cost of running the whole project. A suggested timetable for the handover is set out in the attached budget.
David Chaplin, December 2018