Despite COVID-19 disruptions, Marie Chantal aspires to finish her education and achieve her dreams

Marie Chantal is one of the 450,000 students in Rwanda who took the national exams this year despite COVID-19-related challenges, in hopes of becoming a journalist.

By Feven Getachew
Marie Chantal
12 August 2021

22-year-old Marie Chantal knows exactly what she wants to do once she passes the national exams. "After finishing my studies, I want to become a journalist because I like working in the media," shares Marie Chantal. "I love journalism so much, and I look forward to also learn literature where we get used to writing articles and other types of writing as well as performing different plays."

Born with a physical disability, Marie Chantal is unable to move by herself and coordinate her hands. In July, Marie Chantal sat for the Grade 12 national exam conducted safely across the country in the middle of a Covid-19 lockdown. Aided by a computer to help her study for the exams, she is sure she will pass and proceed with higher education. "I have the confidence," she says with a warm smile that inspires confidence of a bright future ahead. 

For the second straight year, COVID-19 continues to upend the lives of many across the world. Children have been affected by the different measures being put in place to halt the spread of COVID-19. With fear of new waves, the Government of Rwanda has put measures in place including school closures in 2020, followed by remote learning and then gradual school re-opening and catch up classes. The closures last year resulted in the postponement of the national exams, which will help students determine their future.

Marie Chantal

With the outbreak of COVID-19, schools in Rwanda were closed in March 2020, partially reopening in November 2021 and then fully reopening in February 2021. Learning continued throughout this period either at home or through safe school re-opening, and recently completed national exams offer the students the opportunity to progress to the next level of education of their choice.

Thanks to funding from the people of Switzerland, UNICEF worked to ensure that children with disabilities such as Marie Chantal have access to early childhood development, quality education, family care and protection despite uncertainties caused by the pandemic.

To mitigate the impact of COVID-19 for children with disabilities, UNICEF partnered with Humanity and Inclusion to ensure remote learning opportunities for more than 7,200 children with disabilities. This included sign language interpretation of video content developed and aired on television, printing and distribution of braille learning material that benefited 600 children with visual impairment or with low vision and outreach to families with children with disabilities for individualised support during lessons on the radio by teachers and inclusive education activists. 

Through the generous support provided by the people of Switzerland’, UNICEF also supported the capacity development of 3,700 teachers in inclusive education schools and cluster schools to support the enrolment and learning of 7,512 children with disabilities.

Back at Marie Chantal’s school, being born with a disability has not stopped her from pursuing her education. 

However, she is worried about some challenges that students like her face while attending school and taking exams. Regardless of the challenges, Marie Chantal is hopeful and beaming with optimism. 

"What I can say to my classmates who live with disabilities is that we are able to study and achieve our dreams like the rest of the students. There's no difference," she says. "For example, on my side, I plan to become a journalist, and my disability cannot prevent me from doing all I can to achieve it. So, we're able!"