The centre at Muramba provides a pioneering model of special education and vocational training for young people with disabilities. Children with disabilities in the surrounding community often face neglect and ridicule, and many have been hidden away by their families. The APAX centre provides them with important training in life skills and basic education. Currently 25 children attend the special education school, with three stages of adaptation classes.
Additionally the centre is teaching vocational training skills to 14 children who have already completed the special education programme, where they learn how to sew and make clothes. This is an important step in providing the young people with a means of self-sufficiency. The sweaters are sold to local secondary schools as uniform, helping other young people to understand and recognise the capabilities of those with disabilities.
Some of the children have also been integrated into the local primary school, and APAX staff are working with local schools in order to increase understanding and change negative attitudes to disability. The involvement of the local community and families has altered the stigmatisation which disability has traditionally faced. The organisation works with a further 75 children with disabilities in the surrounding area, supporting them in their families and providing financial support to attend other schools. The mentality of parents is changing and many of the children are now being taken to hospital to receive help in cases where it is required, rather than being hidden away at home.
The work is creating a cycle of opportunity - currently two members of the staff are young women who themselves attended the school and vocational programme and have now been trained to teach the other children. A further three graduates of the programme work in another school for children with disabilities in Ruhengeri and two work in one of APAX’s other schools at Janja. APAX has recently received funding from Switzerland for eight sewing machines to give to others who have completed the programme to help them to use their vocational skills to earn a livelihood.
The work of both the special education and training programmes are crucial in building the young people’s self-respect and providing them with skills to cope in a society which has few resources to support their needs.