Harnessing Data to Increase Inclusivity and Accessibility in Education Systems

“In Kinyarwanda, inclusive education translates to ‘leaving no one behind.’”

Knowing how to correctly analyze and interpret data is crucial in building inclusive and accessible education systems for all learners. With the right data and analyses in hand, policymakers and practitioners can target gaps in the education system and better understand the needs of learners, ensuring that all children are able to thrive in schools. That’s why, in November 2023, USAID convened a workshop to review and explore existing data on disability in Rwanda, bringing together representatives of the Rwandan Ministry of Education, the Rwanda National Union for the Deaf, the Rwanda Union for the Blind, Collectif Tubakunde, the National Council for People with Disabilities, and other stakeholders.

In the shadow of the Virunga Mountains that line the northern Rwandan border, participants gathered for a weeklong workshop dedicated to understanding how data on disability is gathered, interpreted, and presented. Over the course of the week, those in attendance discussed the theories behind disability data collection before delving first-hand into transforming and interpreting it themselves.

There are several surveys that have collected data on disability in Rwanda, including the USAID-funded 2019-2020 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), a focus of this workshop. Other sources include the 2019-2020 Rwanda Household Survey and the 2022 Rwanda National Census. Yet despite these different sources, the challenge of synthesizing these data to inform policy and programming remains.

“[The data] do not speak to each other.” - Flora Mutezigaju, UNICEF/MINEDUC

The need to harmonize disparate data sources and develop a common vernacular around data and disability remained a key focus of the week. In addressing these issues, attendees prioritized the “Why” – For what purpose are we collecting data on disability? What will the data be used for?

Participants grappled with these questions as they explored data directly from the 2019-2020 Rwanda DHS. The DHS utilized a group of six questions known as the Washington Group Short Set to estimate the prevalence of disability in a given population. Developed collaboratively between international agencies, bilateral aid agencies such as USAID, and Disabled People’s Organizations, the Washington Group Short Set is commonly used in surveys and censuses worldwide. Combined with data on education attainment, employment, and socioeconomic status also included in the DHS, attendees examined different relationships between these variables in order to tackle simulated policy scenarios with practical applications to the Rwandan context.

Some groups explored the DHS data to uncover patterns in the extent of disability nationwide to determine whether there were certain factors causing disability that might be addressed through policy reforms. Others used the data to brainstorm policies that might increase education enrollment and employment for learners with disabilities. At the workshop’s close, groups presented their findings, fostering further discussion and an exchange of ideas.

For participants, the workshop highlighted the availability of rich secondary data sources like the DHS that serve as valuable tools to inform education policies and programming. Importantly, it created a space for those committed to enhancing the inclusivity and accessibility of education systems to tackle many of the challenges they face when designing effective policies – notably the harmonization and synthesis of data. The workshop also fostered the development of a shared vocabulary and understanding around data and disability, another central issue attendees identified at the outset of the week.

“I have discovered the power of data and how data can help our advocacy efforts.” - Rachel Musabyimana, Rwanda Union for the Blind

Through its programs such as Tunoze Gusoma (“Schools and Systems”) and Uburezi Iwacu (“Homes and Communities”), USAID/Rwanda is committed to increasing foundational literacy and numeracy skills and promote equitable access to education for all children.

For more information on USAID/Rwanda’s work in education, visit usaid.gov/rwanda/education.