Inclusive education speech by Ambassador Peter H. Vrooman

Nyakubahwa Minisitiri na mwe mwese muri hano,
Honorable Minister and others gathered here
Good Morning.

I am delighted to be here this morning to recognize your commitment to promoting the rights of people with disabilities and to improving learning for every child in Rwanda.  As the Minister just observed: “Disability does not mean inability.”
We are here today to identify achievable and specific actions to accelerate our shared goal of fully meeting the learning needs of every child in Rwanda and creating a society in which people with disabilities participate fully.

Successful inclusion means that schools are accessible in terms of communication—including sign language environments with signing peers and resources in Braille—that infrastructure is physically accessible, that there is access to communication technologies, and that teachers are able to use alternative modes of teaching.

Schools also need to be staffed with teachers who are prepared and equipped with the materials and skills they need to ensure they are reaching children with diverse learning styles, including children with special needs.  Certainly, this is a complex undertaking, and not without cost. But it is far more strategic and cost effective to design materials, trainings, and infrastructure to be inclusive from the outset, instead of trying to adapt and insert inclusivity into finished products.

It is important to note that the benefits of a more inclusive education system extend to every single child. Of course, inclusive education will benefit people with disabilities, by including them, developing their capacity, and empowering them to maximize their own (and the country’s) development. But just as importantly, a more inclusive education system will benefit the classmates of students with disabilities immeasurably.

Uburezi budaheza abafite ubumuga buteza imbere uburezi kuri bose.
Disability-inclusive education improves learning for everyone

Good practices for educating children with disabilities are generally good practices for educating all children. For example, training teachers on how to use different types of instruction so that children can learn at their own pace helps all students, regardless of their abilities. And actions like teaching young children Rwandan Sign Language so they can communicate with their deaf peers will expand childrens’ minds and their ability to learn.

Demonstrate the RSL sign for “inclusivity.”

By learning alongside their peers with disabilities, children also lose the stigma associated with disability. They’ll become more attuned to accessibility and accommodation, they’ll learn to accept what they see and they’ll help society, as a whole, become more inclusive. Ultimately, if we want to overcome negative attitudes, we need to remove the mystery, misunderstanding and fear that people have about people with disabilities.

Dufatanyije, twese twakwihanganirana.
Together we become more tolerant

Because of all these benefits,  USAID is committed to supporting the reading development of learners with disabilities and special education needs in Rwanda. Specifically, through our USAID Soma Umenye project, inclusion is a cornerstone of all our activities to improve Kinyarwanda literacy for P1 to P3 students.

There is a saying, “Nothing about us, without us,” meaning that people with disabilities should be at the table to inform and influence strategies and decisions related to disability inclusion. I am thrilled to see so many representatives and friends of Disabled Persons Organizations here today. I especially encourage people with disabilities to speak up and really make your voice heard during the course of this workshop, and for people without disabilities to solicit, listen to, value and act on that strong contribution.

Tugire uruhare, mu bidukorerwa.
Roughly: Nothing about us, without us

I encourage the people with disabilities in Rwanda, along with government officials, partners, and all people of Rwanda, to keep organizing and advocating until each individual is supported to realize their full potential. And I thank you all for being here today,

Mwakoze mwese kuba hano.
Thank you for being here.