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GUEST BLOG: Dieudonne Nsabimana on protecting children in Africa who stutter

GUEST BLOG: Dieudonne Nsabimana on protecting children in Africa who stutter

Why the fight against victimization matters! 
By Dieudonne Nsabimana, Coordinator of the African Stuttering Centre and  member of the International Stuttering Association Board of Directors

My WHYs 

The purpose of this article is to shed light on the challenges facing school-aged children who stutter from disadvantaged backgrounds, especially in Africa, and to give some insights into our efforts for positive change. This movement for change goes beyond borders and socioeconomic status. 

The life of a person who stutters can often bea struggle. However, the life of a young child who stutters from disadvantaged backgrounds in developing countries is a struggle beyond imagination. And yet, most of us ignore this.

My commitment to young children who stutter is no coincidence. When I was a young child, I was victimized because of my stuttering. I clearly remember an episode that happened when I was in grade four, where we were requested to memorize some poems. When my turn came to read a poem aloud, I could not repeat it due to my stuttering—it was a real torture for me. My teacher thought I did not memorize it, so he hit me every time.

I also will never forget when my teacher put me in front of other students and forced me to read certain things so that other students would laugh at me. He did it as a punishment, but it hurt and grieved me so much that I could never forget it.

My childhood with my stuttering is just tears, pain, persecution, and abuse.

In Africa, there is a complete lack of knowledge among teachers about stuttering. In addition, there are no speech therapists in most schools in East Africa who can help students and teachers understand the problem and manage it more effectively.

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Most teachers in most East African countries use corporal punishment when a student hesitates to answer a question, including slapping pupils with their hand or hitting pupils with a stick or other objects. It’s completely illogical! We know that schools should not be places of fear and violence. Often, the students who stutter are the victims of a complete lack of understanding of their communication differences.

Many students who stutter in most East African countries drop out of school due to verbal and physical aggression from their teachers, and consequently, their peers.

Meet Bruce

Bruce’s experience at school is an example of inappropriate behavior towards a young child who stutters.

Bruce, a 12-year-old boy, living in East Africa in northern Rwanda, has been mistreated for having a stutter. Bruce said, “My teacher teases me a lot in class whenever I cannot answer oral questions, and I feel embarrassed and ashamed to come to school.

My Hope for Positive Change

There will certainly be positive changes in this part of the world. So, we are dedicated and determined to make changes. We aim to end the atmosphere of humiliation in schools and change the dropout rate of young children who stutter.

To reach this goal, I have developed an initiative to prevent and combat bullying and victimization of young children who stutter in schools. Through this initiative, I have translated and printed educational materials (booklets and brochures) on stuttering from the Stuttering Foundation of America (with permission). These materials are then made available free of charge to teachers in East African schools.

We want to help teachers and children access materials about stuttering, thus allowing them to develop knowledge about stuttering and learn to help each other. Furthermore, teachers will acquire the necessary skills to better assist students who stutter in the classroom.

Just imagine—if only one teacher becomes aware of stuttering, how many children will have their education saved? Many children! Every year, a teacher receives new students in their class, many of whom stutter, and these students need the teacher’s help and support.

And for Bruce…

Through this initiative, all teachers at Bruce’s school received the Stuttering Education Resource Kit, helping them develop knowledge about stuttering. With this kit, they can better assist and support students who stutter in the classroom. Currently, they live in harmony with the young children and help each other.

I believe that through education, Bruce’s hopes and dreams will grow.

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My Challenges

This initiative is non-profit and does not receive any public funding. However, I offer free translated educational materials on stuttering. I do this because my goal is to educate every teacher. I do this because, to me, every school-age child who stutters matters.

The educational materials are free, but the cost for printing, binding, and distributing the booklets is not. The challenge I have faced and continue to struggle with is to raise funds to support this initiative.

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No matter where you live, or the circumstances of the students who stutter you encounter, I invite each of you to help stop the bullying and victimization of young children who stutter. Tragically, millions of young children who stutter from disadvantaged backgrounds are suffering in silence. Together, we can stand for a world where young children who stutter can live happy lives.

From Scott and Nina

For further information or to help support this initiative, please contact the author, Dieudonne Nsabimana, at africanstutteringcentre@gmail.com.

The booklet that Dieudonne translated, Sometimes I Just Stutter by Eelco de Geus, is published by the Stuttering Foundation: www.StutteringHelp.org


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