Left out, albinos skipping school in Rwanda

Sunday March 5 2017

Rights groups say albinos and disabled women are the most marginalised groups. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

Rights groups say albinos and disabled women are the most marginalised groups. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

By Jean-Pierre Afadhali

Many albinos remain illiterate because the education system is not inclusive, and are socially marginalised leading to setbacks in their interactions, experts say.

They say that albinos find difficulties in getting admission into primary schools and suffer discrimination at the family level due to ignorance.

Nichodem Hakizimana, a project officer at the Organisation of Integration and Promotion of People with Albinism said that many children with albinism do not access primary education because teachers do not know how to treat them.

“Albinos, for example, have low visual impairment and need to sit at the front in a classroom, but teachers do not consider that and some children end up going back home,” said Mr Hakizimana who is also teacher. “As a result of primary education exclusion many albinos remain illiterate; it is a serious problem.”

At a recent gathering in Kigali, local leaders from disabled persons organisations, their Ugandan counterparts and government representatives exchanged ideas on key rights and development issues, advocacy strategies and potential areas for collaboration.

“While the two countries have guaranteed rights of persons with disabilities in their respective constitutions, there is still a huge struggle towards the full realisation of rights and inclusion by persons with disabilities,” said Jean Damascene Nsengiyumva, the executive secretary of the National Union of Disability Organisations in Rwanda.

Women’s representation

Within families, albinos are being marginalised by their husbands and other relatives resulting into divorces.

“When the newborn is an albino the couple separate because the husband considers it a curse in the family arguing that such traits do not exist in his lineage,” said Mr Nsengiyumva.

Rights organisations cite albinos and disabled women as being among the most marginalised groups. This is despite gains in bridging the gender divide in Rwanda.

The programme officer for advocacy organisation Disability Rights Fund Jorge Manhique said that the disabled community in Rwanda is male-dominated and women are unrepresented in many institutions.

“One of the things Rwanda is praised for is women representation in decision-making in parliament and government institutions, but women with disability are conspicuously missing,” he said.

He added: “The needs of women with disability are different; other women will not represent the disabled meaningfully.”

According to Mr Manhique, women’s representation means leadership in various areas because people have many identities.

“You are a woman, you can belong to a minority group, be a refugee, marginalised group and you experience different types of discrimination because of the different identities that you carry,” said Mr Manhique who represents Rwanda and Malawi.

He said that increasing women’s leadership role in various decision-making institutions will boost inclusion in communities.

“Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are advanced because albinos are represented in the local administration,” said Mr Hakizimana.

However, for the first time ever, visually impaired people will vote in Rwanda’s upcoming presidential elections in August, an advance in civic participation inclusion.

On their part, disabled people say the new Kigali-based Sustainable Development Goals Centre for Africa will give them the opportunity to raise their voices for inclusion in the development agenda.

Meanwhile, an online resource map has been launched to promote “a better social life “of persons with Disabilities. The tool contains social resources for People with Disabilities such as schools, project information, events and services.