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RWANDA: Children with deafness or hearing loss receive education

Salesian sisters provide primary and secondary school, vocational training

RWANDA

(MissionNewswire) The Filippo Smaldone Institute, located in Nyamirambo, a suburb of Kigali, Rwanda, is run by the Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Heart. The institute provides primary and secondary school, as well as vocational courses to prepare students for the workforce. The institute also has special courses for students with vision and hearing disabilities, according to a recent article in Global Sisters Report.

The Salesian Sisters of the Sacred Heart congregation was founded in 1885 by St. Filippo Smaldone, who is known as the apostle of the deaf. According to the article, since 1987, the Salesian sisters have focused their work to assist those in danger of social exclusion, including students who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The institute educates more than 400 students, including 207 children with hearing loss or deafness and more than 200 without a disability. According to the article, Salesian Sister Therese Akayezu, head teacher at the Filippo Smaldone Institute, noted that by attending classes and special programs with dedicated teachers, deaf or hard of hearing children can learn skills to master a profession.

Sr. Akayezu said, “In our teaching methodology, we try to focus on improving self-esteem among children with hearing loss who sometimes develop lower self-esteem than hearing peers.”

Many parents in remote and rural Rwanda do not know that their children with disabilities have a right to study. Children who do attend school drop out earlier because they are unable to learn in classrooms where only 15% of teachers are trained in how to educate those with disabilities, according to the article, which pulled statistics from the Ministry of Education.

Students with disabilities, which include nearly 39,000 learners, need an education in order to gain the skills for later employment. The article noted that one-third of Rwandan students with disabilities in both primary and secondary schools have hearing loss.

“Parents should understand that these hearing-impaired children need to attend school and learn how to use sign language as it creates for them a true learning experience,” Sr. Akayezu said in the article.

Jules Mugirase, a 12-year-old from Mageragere, used to have a self-deprecating mentality due to his severe hearing loss. Things have changed since he enrolled at the institute. Mugirase told the Global Sisters Report, “I made many new friends at school, and thanks to the special support I am getting, this keeps encouraging me to do my best.”

Parents also report a positive change in their children as they learn skills and become engage in their education. Alphonse Munyankindi, whose son is learning baking at the institute, said his child has grown happier since returning to school. In the article, he explained, “My son first developed hearing problems when he was 5 years old, and the situation continued to worsen, and he was no longer able to study at regular schools.”

Adults are also succeeding in finding a career thanks to the institute’s vocational training. The article noted that thanks to the Salesian sisters, Fiona Mukundente, a 23-year-old mother with hearing impairments, has been able to complete the one-year intensive vocational sewing program. After her training, she and her peers at the institute secured a loan from the Saving and Credit Cooperative Society, a microfinance institution, to establish a modern sewing workshop at Kabeza, a suburb of Kigali.

She told Global Sisters Report, “Before joining hands with my peers in running a sewing workshop, I was unemployed and had nothing in terms of assets. After starting this career, I started making money, bought a piece of land and can pay school fees for my siblings.”

Salesian sisters at the Filippo Smaldone Institute are not only improving individual students’ lives but are setting a standard for education for youth with disabilities in the country.

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Sources:

Photo courtesy of Aimable Twahirwa and Global Sisters Report

Global Sisters Report – Salesian Sisters’ school supports Rwandan children with deafness or hearing loss

Salesian Missions – Rwanda

UNICEF – Rwanda