By Elias Hakizimana.
As the world celebrates the International Day of the African Child 2020, many families in Rwanda whose children have different disabilities claim the welfare and social development of their children still have barriers such as inequality of Rights, social stigma and discrimination, poor health and education among others.
Since 1991, the International Day of the African Child has been celebrated every year on June 16th to commemorate those killed during the Soweto Uprising in South Africa, and to recognize the courage of the students who marched for their right to an education.
This day is celebrated today while many African Countries have not yet fully fulfilled the policies implementing children potentials to ensure their rights are respected.
Solange Mukarwego, a mother of three children from Mageragere Sector in Nyarugenge District, Kigali City has a daughter who has physical disabilities, she can’t move and she always wish to go to school but there is no school for children with disabilities nearby their location.
The twelve-year old child lives with her mother as the father rejected her mother after giving birth to a disabled child.
“Besides losing education opportunity, children with disabilities still face barriers in their lives including social stigma and discrimination. I wish that the government can intervene and help me get capacity to educate my child,” Mukarwego said.
This issue is common as other parents whose children have disabilities used to say. Ridhiki Akimpaye, another mother of three children with albinism told The Inspirer that her children as many of their colleagues with same issue are discriminated and stigmatized.
He added that they do not get appropriate healthcare and education as other children who do not have disabilities.
“Our children with albinism do not get equal education and healthcare rights. What I would recommend High Education Council is to further knowledge of teachers with another package on how to treat children with disabilities and to know various kinds of disabilities as well as kinds of challenges they face. In my observation, I realized that teachers consider children with albinism as ignorant, but when they treat them well with love, they succeed in all lessons,” she said, adding that children with such an issue should be protected against sun shines and body-harassing punishments such as kneeling down as it undermines their skin.
She requested the government to take the lead in advocating children rights and especially children with disabilities. He embarked on the issue of skin butter for people with albinism which is still expensive and requests the government to help them get it on Health Insurance. She says the prices for this skin butter are on high, ranging between Rwf 10,500 and Rwf 15,000.
“I buy two bottles in one month for RWF 30,000 and it is difficult for me to afford. It casn be better to pay it by using Health Insurance,” she noted.
During this period the World and Rwanda are hindered by Covid-19, children are in homes and their families have a big role to cater for their welfare, but big challenges still surround their education according to child rights activists.
Simon Pierre Muhire, Project Officer at Uwezo Youth Empowerment, a local organization that deals with advocacy of children and young people with disabilities said that some achievements were met in Education, Health, Entertainment but some challenges are still observed following the variety of disabilities.
“During Covid-19, many children with disabilities do not know sign language and mature people they live with have no capacity to cater for them, there is a need for more efforts to remove all these barriers to ensure inclusive education goal is met,” he said.
“We request our Government to implement what are in the international convention of Child Rights. Let us handle the barriers to children starting from homes where they live, let us have various efforts enforcing child rights start in families.” Muhire said, requesting the Ministry of Education to mention the role of children with disabilities in their social development activities.
According to Bahati Satir Omar, Executive Director and Founder of Uwezo Youth Empowerment, policies that cater for the rights of children with disabilities such as special budget need to be enforced.
He said that the government support is only given to the institutions that cater for children WDs but there is nothing done yet in regard with promoting the rights and welfare of Children WDs in schools and out schools as well as in homes. “This might have been done but there are no unique statistics today to base on by finding solutions.” He said.
“As activists, we are happy for what the Government has achieved so far in promoting the Rights of Rwandan children like fighting unwanted pregnancies, child defilement and child labour among others. However, many challenges still hinder the progress. We still have children WDs begging on the streets, The International Day of African Child should light the way forward for the government to set up a budget to improve on the welfare of Children WDs by promoting inclusive education.” he added.
Uwezo Youth Empowerment Organization has so far started a campaign on media to increase awareness about the Rights of Children WDs. The organization currently works in 11 districts including Gasabo, Kicukiro, Nyarugenge, Musanze, Burera, Nyanza, Ruhango, Huye and will soon involve Rutsiro, Ngororero, Kirehe and Bugesera Districts.
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