With the reading culture trying to get momentum in Rwanda, it is important for parents to be at the forefront of instilling the discipline, says Stephen Mugisha, the Country Manager of Fountain Publishers Rwanda and author of several children’s books.
“A reading parent is a reading child, as the common English saying states that you can’t give what you don’t have. Therefore, parents have to avail their children with reading material if we are to promote the reading culture. Parents should be the core promoters of the reading culture,” Mugisha says.
Fountain Publishers sets to transform education and the momentum of the reading culture in Rwanda. They focus on developing and strengthening local authors, reading by donating books to schools and campaigns such as, ‘Rwanda Reads’.
Major stakeholders such as the Ministry of Education, Rwanda Education Board (REB) and several NGOs have realised that reading is essential for the development of the sector.
“Reading should be a culture and it should be done at the earliest age. When someone is an adult it is hard to tell them to love reading that is why my focus is availing as many children books as possible,” Mugisha explains.
A teacher by profession, Mugisha has taught English and Communication Skills at Kigali Institute of Education for seven years hence, his role as an activist for a vibrant reading culture.
The 38-year-old author was born in Mbarara District, Uganda where he attended most of his primary and secondary education. He attained a Diploma in Secondary Education at Institute of Teacher’s College Kyambongo. He then studied at the School of Finance and Banking in Kigali where he attained a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration and is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Development Studies at the National University of Rwanda.
“As a child, I didn’t have big dreams of what I wanted to become in the future. My parents were not educated but when I reached O’ Level I started aspiring to become a lawyer however, I admired writers more. I was juggling between becoming a lawyer and a writer like Chinua Achebe and that’s why I took on literature in almost all my education life,” Mugisha explains.
Mugisha has written several storybooks, his favourite being, ‘Ineza Marries The Princess.’
“The story is a little bit fiction and semi-cultural. It is enshrined in one of the Rwandan cultural stories although it is modified a little bit. I like the lessons in the story, since it centres around the legacy we leave behind when we die. This young man Ineza was able to marry the princess because of the good deeds of his father,” Mugisha states.
He further said that writing is the best way to preserve historical values for reference purposes by the future generations.
“If we don’t write, we are likely to lose our culture to civilisation with no knowledge about our past. Books are a window to the past. We need more Reading Associations and civil society organisations to promote a vibrant reading culture especially through establishing mobile libraries,” Mugisha emphasised.
As any initiative, Mugisha reveals that he encounters several challenges as a reading culture advocate.
“Rwanda is an oral society where people are not used to reading which explains the limited local reading materials. Foreign publications don’t blend easily with our social issues and any connection to what is going in our society,” Mugisha says.
The father of four said that he preaches what he does; he has provided his children with all kinds of reading material.
In a phone interview with The New Times, Mugisha’s second child, five-year-old Praise Mbaho Mugisha, said that his favourite book is ‘Goldlocks and the three bears’.
“Goldlocks and the three bears is about a girl who went into a bears house, ate their porridge, and slept in their bed,” he said adding that, “When I grow up, I want to be like dad.”
Mugisha said: “When I travel, the gifts I bring my children are mostly books. This makes them love reading and that is why our home is flooded with books.”