VSO in Rwanda is expanding on an already solid base in education and disability rights and deepening our impact by developing high quality programmes, extending in to new and exciting areas including sexual and reproductive health, empowering youth employment and enterprise.
Quality education for all
Nearly all Rwandan children are enrolled in primary school, but the quality of much of this education is a cause for concern. Children are leaving school without a decent level of literacy and numeracy. There are also high rates of repetition, especially the first year of primary, which is repeated by 70% of children.
The government of Rwanda introduced early childhood education (ECE) in 2013 to combat some of these issues. However, most teachers are unqualified and struggling with a lack of resources.
VSO Rwanda is supporting the Ministry of Education to improve the quality of primary and pre-primary education by working in schools and with established teacher training colleges in the country to build teachers’ confidence and ability to improve the quality of learning by putting the learner at the centre, even in settings with very few resources.
Get Ready to Learn
Our Get Ready to Learn (Itegure Kwiga) programme in Rwanda is seeing improvements in the learning of 3 to 6-year-olds in one of the poorest areas in Rwanda.
The programme focusses on the crucial development window before children begin school – making sure that they arrive at primary school with the skills they’ll need to learn and participate fully in their education.
Early Childhood Education places emphasis on developing confidence, social skills and self-esteem in pre-primary children; it also ensures that children with disabilities get the identification and support they need. Parent and community leaders report that they can clearly see the difference between children who have received ECE and those who haven’t.
- Children reported to have more self-confidence and self-esteem, and better social skills and personal hygiene.
- Over 134 children with disabilities were identified, 65 were assessed and to date 10 have been provided with medical intervention and assistive devices to help them to attend and learn in schools.
- Parents are showing greater understanding and ownership of the education of their children which is demonstrated by increased attendance of children in schools especially the ones with disabilities.
- Parents increasingly packing snacks or contributing towards school feeding, parents increasingly providing materials that can be used to make teaching aids, and parents visiting schools to observe lessons.
- Parents (as well as Head teachers and local leaders) now appreciate fully that ECE is learning not just playing. Head teachers and local leaders also tell VSO that ECE teachers are now considered part of the school whereas previously they were not.
Social accountability for disability rights
Between 5-15% of Rwandans are estimated to live with a disability. This group is more likely to be uneducated and live in poverty. Around a quarter of people in households headed by a person with disability live on less than 241 RWF (24p) per day, and there are still gaps in accessing healthcare and education.
VSO has been instrumental in achieving improved disability rights over the past 10 years. We have informed policy changes and played a key role in the formation of groups to represent people with disabilities at the national level. We look at social inclusion in all our projects from education, to livelihoods and beyond.
Making sure people with disabilities are heard
We work with people with disabilities and their families, as well as officials and service providers, to gather the views of people with disabilities across Rwanda and deliver the services and protections they need.
This empowers communities to be involved in the decisions that affect them. By putting the voice of people with disabilities and their families at the heart of research – and by ensuring these messages are heard by duty bearers – the initiative contributes to policy development, social accountability in social protection and more positive mind-sets towards PWDs amongst local leaders.
We worked with:
- Over 40 disability representatives and advocates from civil society and government representative structures
- Almost 800 people with disabilities and their families reached across Rwanda
- Over 50 officials and service providers at local and national level involved in delivery Rwanda’s key social protection programme.
We used to consider people with disabilities like beggars when he came to you, but now our behaviour has changed. Their advice is now valued.
Village leader, Musanze
Inclusion and sexual and reproductive health and rights
In our work on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and rights, reaching young people is a challenge in itself. But reaching young people who also have a disability is even more so.
Young Deaf people tell us that, although they may have some sexual and reproductive health knowledge, it is not coherent and quite often incorrect and inaccurate.
VSO Rwanda has is working with Deaf youth in an isolated and underdeveloped area of Rwanda with sexual and reproductive health and rights information to increase their individual resilience and improve their life chances.
As part of this project, Imbere Heza or ’Bright Futures’, a VSO national volunteer who is a Deaf young woman herself, provides the information to Deaf youth. This was the first time they had worked with another Deaf person which has made a significant difference to their understanding. They are able to receive information first hand without interpretation and can engage more actively and deeply in discussion.
VSO has also been promoting better response from local health services by training healthcare providers in Deaf culture and Rwandan Sign Language. Healthcare providers have reported some profound changes both professionally and personally which is already leading to better service response to Deaf youth and the wider Deaf community.
- VSO Rwanda has reached 200 Deaf youth in an isolated and underdeveloped area of Rwanda
- Of these, 18 are also enrolled in livelihoods skills development courses.
- 147 healthcare providers (22 professional nurses and 125 volunteer community health workers) trained in Deaf culture and Rwandan Sign Language.
I provide care for two pregnant Deaf women and I try to use the sign language that I know. Even when I arrived for the workshop this morning I met a Deaf women who had been violated. No one around could understand her case. I tried to talk to her. My motivation to help was because I had had this training on sign language.
Female Community Health Worker
What makes VSO different?
VSO is a leading development partner that has been reducing poverty and inequality in Rwanda through the lasting power of volunteering, since 1998.
We have a strong track record of working closely with the Government to deliver improved services and capacity, with a specific focus on reaching the most vulnerable and marginalised groups in society: children, youth, women and people with disabilities. We are committed to supporting Rwanda to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals and Vision 2020, a national plan for transitioning to a zero-poverty, middle income, knowledge-based society.
Our volunteering for development approach brings together the best international expertise with the contributions of committed and dedicated Rwandans to build capacity, boost collaboration, increase participation and extend the reach of services to the poorest and most marginalised.
"Working with VSO from the very start of our organisation has been crucial. Our partnership is the foundation of all the good models that we are practicing today"
Louis Ngabonziza, Director, Nyabihu Deaf School
Our valued funding partners include UNICEF, DFID and USAID.
We have strong relationships with ministries including the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Local Government.
Other valued implementing partners and allies include the National Union of Disability Organisations in Rwanda (NUDOR), teacher training colleges and cooperative associations.
In 2015/16, our support led to demonstrable improvements in our partners’ capacity and service delivery including in enhanced:
- Planning processes
- Data collection
- Continual professional development
- Income generation
Back to school as a father of three
Gratien Nshimiyimana fought to go back to primary school - the same one his children attend - after his childhood education was cut short by Rwanda's 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsis. Now he is passionate champion of education involved, along with his children, in a VSO project to establish high quality early childhood education across the country for all children.
"My son has begun to speak"
Charles Sibomana, 11, has suspected intellectual disabilities. He was always mute in school and remained separate from other children. Since his teacher at Gahanga Primary school was trained by VSO, his performance is improving, he is mixing with other children, and has even begun to speak.
Happy bellies for brighter futures: Volunteers' project feeds hungry children
Shocked by levels of malnutrition in the country, volunteering couple Jan and Ann started their own project to give a hundred nursery aged children in Rwanda a hot meal at school every day.
Improving teacher literacy and numeracy skills in Rwanda
The Literacy, Language and Learning (L3) project in Rwanda strengthens the teaching skills of student teachers in English, Kinyarwanda and numeracy.
Improving the quality of primary level teaching in Rwanda
Training in inclusive learner-centred methods to improve the quality of teaching and learning at primary level
Country Director: Papa Diouf
Head of Programmes: Michael Opio
Education advisers: Ruth Mbabazi and Damien Gregory
Governance and inclusion adviser: Sarah Challoner
Livelihoods adviser: Philbert Hakizimana
Health adviser: Sophia Mutoni
Considering partnering with us?
We would very much like to hear from you. Please reach out to:
- Michael Opio, Head of Programs, VSO Rwanda
- +250 788 302 521
P.O. Box 4599
KG 625 Street, House N 12
Interested in volunteering?
We urgently need committed and experienced professionals to help deliver transformational change in Rwanda.