The First Lady and Chairperson of Imbuto Foundation, Mrs Jeannette Kagame has called for practical efforts by parents, teachers and other education stakeholders to eliminate barriers that limit girls' education.
Mrs Kagame was speaking on Tuesday in Nyamagabe District at the closing ceremony of the 13th annual Promotion of Girls' Education Campaign, while rewarding 82 Best Performing Girls (BPGs) in 2017 national examinations.
Since 2005, Imbuto Foundation have rewarded over 4,700 girls for their high academic achievements.
Each year, the BPGs are rewarded with scholastic materials and essential funds for them to open saving accounts for Primary 6 and Senior 3, while those in Advanced Level (Senior 6) receive laptops and ICT training to ease their transition to university.
Up to 79 girls were rewarded on Monday in Gakenke District, while 10 others were awarded early this month in Muhanga District.
Speaking at the event, the First Lady said that while girls have equal opportunity as their male counterparts, there is need for collective effort to ensure more girls remain competitive.
She explained that the awards encourage girls to attend school as planned and to excel.
“Over the past five years as we awarded best performing students, we could not get girls to award in about 211 sectors out of 416 sectors of the country,” she added.
She said that after concerted efforts, only 82 sectors have no qualifying recipients.
“This number is still high and we should all commit our efforts to ensure that each sector gets at least one girl to award next year in first division,” she said.
The First Lady said that 15 out of 25 of the girls awarded, completed secondary school and had pursued their education in sciences.
But she noted that there is still a gap to fill as the Ministry of Education indicates that girls in science, increased from 48 percent in 2011 to 55 percent in 2015.
Change of mindset
Mrs Kagame challenged parents to change their mindset, to ensure their children start school in Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres, to shape their intellectual and physical growth.
“We need to look at what still hinders education of our children, and ensure they attend schools. Parents should accompany their children, monitor them and get time to talk to them. Raising children is not a one-off activity,” she said, urging children to be closer to their parents as well.
During the event, the Best Performing Girls gave their testimonies on how they managed to excel despite coming from rural and vulnerable backgrounds.
Athanasie Bugenimana from Cyanika sector in Nyamagabe District, was rewarded by Imbuto Foundation from Primary 6 to Senior 6, and attributed her success to motivation.
“Girls should know we are capable of pursuing any courses. I worked harder and tirelessly and managed to be awarded thrice. My dream is to become a medical doctor to help the sector grow,” said Bugenimana, who completed her A Level education with a subject combination of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology (PCB) which she pursued at Lycee de Kigali.
This year, 171 best performing girls from last year’s Primary Leaving Examinations, Ordinary and Advanced levels have been awarded in this year's campaign.