According to the Education Transition Plan (PTE in French) 2018–2020, inclusive education is teaching people with "special needs" through "education tailored to their needs and potentials, with a view to preparing them for a decent socioprofessional future”.
Special educational needs
The PTE 2018–2020 definition of "children with special needs" includes children affected by severe poverty, orphans, children with disabilities and children directly or indirectly affected by HIV or AIDS. Similarly, the Education and Training Sector Development Plan (PSDEF) 2012–2020 mentions "vulnerable" pupils in reference, for example, to pupils with disabilities, orphans, street children, indigenous people and child soldiers. Pupils in schools that are far from decision-making centres, pupils with uneducated parents and pupils living in significant poverty are also more vulnerable. However, according to article 3 of Decree 1/19 of 10 September 2013 on the organization of basic and secondary education, people with "special needs" are people who face significant barriers in their learning (e.g. those with language or attention disorders) or who have a motor or sensory disability. Four types of impairment are mentioned: physical, learning, hearing and visual.
Special education for persons with disabilities is defined by decree and comes under the responsibility of the Ministry of National Solidarity. Various special education centres target deaf people, persons with physical disabilities and blind people by offering them physiotherapy, primary and vocational education, and motor rehabilitation treatment and exercises.
As there are limited accessible facilities, only children with mild physical disabilities who can write, move easily, travel long distances and adapt to the physical structure of buildings intended for children without disabilities can be enrolled at state primary schools. Thus, children with more severe disabilities are often excluded from mainstream education.
As of 2012–2013, pupils with visual and hearing impairments who have passed the national examination in sixth grade are referred to Notre Dame de la Sagesse high school in Gitega, where they continue their studies with students without disabilities. During the project’s second year, 13 pupils with visual impairments and 16 with hearing impairments were enrolled. They were taught by regular teachers, two specialized teachers and two Braille and sign-language specialists. Class assessments and these pupils’ responses were translated.
In 2012, the Special Teacher Training College was selected to pilot inclusive education at the higher education level by letter 610.7/274/2012.
The current Constitution of Burundi (adopted in 2005) does not mention inclusive education or education for pupils with disabilities. However, article 22 states that nobody shall be discriminated against on the grounds of their origin, race, physical disability or learning disability. An inclusive education unit was created within the Ministry of Education through Statutory Order No. 610/902 of 6 May 2015. Article 15 of the Education Act of 2013 adds that people with "special needs" shall have the right to an "education tailored to their needs and potentials, with a view to preparing them for a decent socioprofessional future". The country does not have a national strategy to promote inclusive education.
The country ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2014, but there is still no law that explains how this convention will be implemented in the Burundian context. Through Decree 100/025 on the organization of preschool education, the State ensures that disabilities are identified, which ensures child protection. In parallel, article 30 of Act No. 1/03 of 10 January 2018 on the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in Burundi stipulates that all persons with disabilities, regardless of gender, shall have the right to equal educational opportunities in a tailored environment. In 2019, there will be a dedicated chapter to inclusive education in the National Policy on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Inclusive education is mainly implemented through pilot programmes with partners (PTE 2018–2020), including Handicap International. For example, the project in Bujumbura has made it possible for 887 pupils with disabilities to enrol in 45 "satellite" primary and secondary schools, i.e. schools where children from villages without schools are sent. Moreover, Handicap International has established a system of "parent peer educators" that enables every child (especially children with disabilities) to go to school. These 80 parents, aged between 30 and 65 years, from eight municipalities and four provinces, were trained by Handicap International on how to deal with the challenges they face in their day-to-day lives. In 2016–2017, they helped 1,174 children with disabilities enrol in schools.
The PTE 2018–2020 provides for the construction of separate latrines and water points in school construction programmes. It also provides for popularization and awareness-raising actions on the content of Act No. 1/13 of 22 September 2016 on the prevention and punishment of gender-based violence and the protection of survivors.
Various initiatives are aimed at gender equality in education, including the Nderagakura radio show that focuses on education and awareness-raising for girls' education and the adoption of a “gender equity” strategy in primary and secondary education.
Ethnicity and languages
In December 2018, the Council of Ministers decided that written Kirundi and spoken French would be taught from first grade. Written French is taught from second grade onwards. English is introduced from third grade; it is spoken to begin with and then written from fifth grade. Kiswahili is introduced in fifth grade; it is spoken to begin with and then written in sixth grade.
The Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategic Framework II (2012–2015) is founded on four pillars, including the promotion of gender equality, and structured coordination between the various ministries responsible for education.
The Ministry of Education and its partners are developing a national school feeding policy. In November 2018, the Council of Ministers adopted an "endogenous school canteen project" to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition among school and preschool children. This project encourages children to enrol at and attend school.
Finally, the PTE 2018–2020 promotes free basic education and seeks to distribute more school supplies to children in schools in the most vulnerable communes.
Children who have dropped out of school
The PTE 2018–2020 aims to support children who have dropped out of school through monitoring measures (routine monitoring of attendance, identification of displaced children) and care (educational and administrative measures to tailor teaching and timetables, distribution of school supplies, etc.).
Religious groups and civil society organizations have long dominated the field of special and inclusive education. The State has gradually asserted its role by implementing pilot projects supported by non-governmental and international organizations.
According to the PTE 2018–2020, the sector’s governance will need to be restructured:
through a census of all actors working in the field in Burundi
by developing a national strategy document for inclusive education
by setting up an inter-agency and interdepartmental platform/working group to monitor the national strategy.
The plan provides for stakeholder capacity-building through supporting both the inclusive education unit and community mobilization activities to promote access to school for young persons with disabilities. An inclusive education unit attached to the Ministry of Education’s office was established in 2016 and it has specific tasks.
According to the PTE 2018–2020, the measures already adopted for pupils with visual impairments will be renewed: procurement of teaching materials, transcription of textbooks into Braille for grades one and two and recruitment of sign-language and Braille tutors.
Curriculum and teaching materials
The PTE 2018–2020 indicates that local management supports the implementation of important policies for basic education through, for example, the gradual introduction of new curricula and refocusing on learning to read in grades one and two.
The PTE 2018–2020 plans to build actors’ capacities through equipment, developing initial training facilities and training educational advisers and inspectors. Another action will aim to create a group of national trainers who are specialized in inclusive education and better equip them with educational tools. These trainers will visit 46 schools in a pilot project. The plan also provides for refresher courses in French and other languages in teacher training courses.
However, very few teachers are trained in inclusion and few are trained beyond primary school. Thus, without training, inclusion will end at primary school. Higher education “special education” courses offer general modules in disability and related pedagogical approaches, as well as training in sign language and Braille.
Formal training facilities train only psychologists and general teachers. There is a lack of qualified personnel (special education teachers, paediatricians, audiologists, speech therapists, therapists and physiotherapists, etc.) in special education centres (and especially in mainstream schools).
Burundi does not have an education monitoring report.
However, Ministerial Ordinance No. 610/902 of 6 May 2016, the PTE 2018–2020 and the national forum on inclusive education held in May 2017 all plan to integrate indicators on inclusive education (enrolment by type of disability, information on facilities and monitoring of staff training on inclusion) into the Ministry of Education's educational information management system database.