Inclusive education for learners with special needs in Rwanda.

Ubumwe community center, a life changer to those with special needs!


The Ministry of Education defines inclusive education as the ‘process of addressing all learners’ educational needs in a mainstream education setting. It is based on the principle that all learners are different, and can learn and develop differently, and therefore, the education system is expected to flexibly be adapted to fit every learner’s (child’s) needs.’

The groups of learners with special education needs include learners with physical and motor challenges, intellectual challenges, visual impairment, hearing impairment, developmental challenges, multiple disabilities/difficulties, speech and communication difficulties, and specific and general learning difficulties. Also included are gifted and talented learners; orphans; abused and neglected children; displaced, refugees and returnees; children in prisons; child soldiers and laborers; children heading families; street children; and children infected and affected by HIV and other terminal or chronic illnesses. These learners may have non-ordinary needs in schooling because of intrinsic or extrinsic limitations.

Previously, the education of ‘learners with special needs’ focused exclusively on those with disabilities, but the current policy has broadened this perspective.

First, special school settings are traditionally established ‘to cater for learners with certain disabilities’. They are equipped with specialized support services such as rehabilitation, teaching methodologies, specialized instructional materials and assistive devices. This system aims at providing education services to all children who may have needs for adjusted education, different from ordinary education. There are schools for students with blindness and deafness as well as other special education needs. The 2011 Education Law states that ‘specialized schools aim at admitting students with physical or mental disabilities or both, who cannot study in ordinary schools so as to acquire knowledge and education that may improve their abilities and skills in order to be self reliant and to participate in national development.’ Second, inclusive schools (or child-friendly school settings)are ordinary schools that have adopted an accessible and barrier-free school policy in order to accommodate learners with a range of education needs.

Couture and Embroidery class at Ubumwe community center 

 Laws, Plans, Policies and Programmes

Article 40 of the Constitutionclaims that every person has the right to education. In addition, the State assumes the duty to take special measures to facilitate the education of disabled people. Article 11 states that all Rwandans are born and remain free and equal in rights and duties.

Article 14 claims that ‘the State shall take special measures for the welfare of the survivors of genocide who were rendered destitute by the genocide committed in Rwanda from October 1st, 1990 to December 31st, 1994, the disabled, the indigent and the elderly as well as other vulnerable groups.’ Discrimination of any kind based on, inter alia, ethnic origin, tribe, clan, colour, sex, region, social origin, religion or faith, opinion, economic status, culture, language, social status, or physical or mental disability is prohibited and punishable by law.

The Revised Special Needs and Inclusive Education Policyis centred on the following principles: equal access to learning opportunities for all learners with special education needs; respect and facilitation for all learners; independence and autonomy; and partnerships with education stakeholders. The most recent education sector planincluded improved access for learners with special educational needs in the first of the sector’s strategic goals.

Twahirwa Umumarashavu Janat