According to Rwanda National Union of the Deaf, deaf people in Rwanda face a complex web of problems ranging from social, economic, cultural and developmental difficulties, negative attitudes by society towards them, communication barriers. Poverty further degrades their attainment of dignity and unity and access to jobs and education in their communities and this limits their full enjoyment of the fundamental human rights entitled to all human beings. Through our school work, we strive to intervene by ensuring that deaf children have access to education as early as possible. This we believe will not only empower and make them independent members of the Rwandan community but will also help change the community’s negative mindsets towards deaf people in general allowing them to fully enjoy their fundamental human rights in the long-term. On top of the curricular content, the children get involved in regular extracurricular activities such as playing and dancing which all play a role in their academic and personal development.
We do this not only through the Nyabihu school for the deaf but also through our transition and integration programme which helps students who are moved on from the school during the transition and ease their integration into mainstream community schools which reduces the risk of dropping out due to lack of support and shortage of human and material resources for deaf students in mainstream schools.
The critical challenges facing deaf children are non-existent in a school setting such as ours, however, if our intervention is limited to the school only, the problems would persist at the community level making it difficult for us to realize our long-term vision of having literate and independent deaf children and young people living and thriving in their communities. That is why we also work with families of deaf children and their wider communities through advocacy and sensitization to help the communities change negative mindsets towards deaf children and people with disabilities in general as well as training them in Rwandan sign language to help eradicate communication barriers between community members; key service providers such as health care workers; local authorities; security and justice personnel and deaf people to ensure that service delivery not only accessible but also inclusive.