Izere Mubyeyi Organization, a non-governmental organization has announced plans to carry out an identification exercise and data collection on children with intellectual disabilities in Kigali, so as to come up with a roadmap to support them following the fact that many continue to be hidden in their homes.
Through a new project dubbed “unlocking opportunities for children and youth with intellectual disabilities, the organisation plans to conduct community awareness to advocate for rights, engage community local leaders in identification of children and youth with disabilities.
The project will be conducted in the next six months, with an initial funding of Rwf3 million offered by Agnes Mukashyaka, the organisation’s Coordinator who recently won the cash award at the US Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) Impact Awards 2023.
“There is still a big need for advocacy in changing mindset; many children with disabilities are still kept inside homes because parents are ashamed of the status of their children,” said Mukashyaka.
Mukashyaka is a mother of a child with an intellectual disability (who is now 28) and using her experience, she says that though a lot has been done for children with disabilities at large, the children with intellectual disabilities have been neglected especially in inclusive education and access to services.
“It is not easy to bring out a child with intellectual disabilities. I was only brave enough to take my son to church and all places I went to, but it required me to teach him the public manner of which he learnt with time. This is why we need other families to do so, because many children remain hidden,” Mukashyaka said.
The project will start with identifying children in Kigali city, among two sectors which have high numbers of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) according to the 2021 National Census.
The census shows that there are over 300,000 persons with disabilities, however currently there is no data or research done on children and youth with intellectual disability.
Izere Mubyeyi organization Chairman, Félicien Turatsinze said that the pilot project will show the challenges in families , including poverty so that intervention is done by the Izere centers and other organisations.
Turatsinze stated that the project will give a roadmap for districts to intervene in these issues through their own budgets and enable local leaders to make a needs assessment to address this concern.
“This will contribute to the implementation of the inclusive education policy and curriculum which was approved but has not been implemented for many reasons.
Immaculée Karangwa, the Deputy Country Director of Hope and Homes for Children Rwanda, said they are ready to help so that these centers grow, and that means constructing more centers but the hand of government is crucial.
“We need to focus on non-residential support to enable and re-enforce family engagement in raising the children. When we say poor families should send their children to centers, its a stigma, in itself shows inability but in the end it is the role of the family we need to build,” Karangwa said.
Vuningabo said that the project findings will also be submitted to the United Nations in Geneva as reference for case studies on PWDs especially intellectual disability which remains unaddressed.