Scaling up the country’s feeding programme in all primary and secondary schools, as well as reducing congestion in classrooms are among the strategies government has considered to ensure there are no more school dropouts in Rwanda, according to Claudette Irere, the Minister of State for Education. ALSO READ: World Teachers’ Day: ICT Minister urges teachers to drive technology use in education In early 2022, the Ministry of Education announced that private schools should also start implementing the school feeding policy, which was then being implemented in all public and government-aided schools. Speaking on Thursday, December 14, during the celebrations for World Teachers’ Day, the minister noted that scaling up Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) facilities countrywide is also part of the strategy. Interventions underway include ensuring that in the next financial year’s planning, for example, all administrative sectors countrywide have TVET facilities. Currently, only 24 out of the total 416 sectors are yet to be covered. Construction of such facilities is underway and is expected to be completed in June 2024. Presently, Irere noted, the cases of primary school dropouts decreased from 9.5 per cent to 8.5 per cent. This implies there remains considerable work to do especially since, in 2017, Rwanda set a target of reducing school dropout from primary and secondary schools to nearly 1%, by 2024. Among others, the extension of school the feeding programme to primary and pre-primary children was implemented in the 2021/2022 fiscal year. ALSO READ: Educationists express concern over new school feeding programme “We have of recent recorded a drastic reduction in school dropouts in a year; last year . Children’s school dropouts decreased from 9.5 per cent to 8.5 per cent,” Irere said, attributing this to a raft of measures that were deployed by government. ALSO READ: Govt warns parents against school dropouts According to data from the 2020–2021 statistics yearbook, the percentage of primary school dropouts grew from 7.8 per cent in 2019 to 9.5 percent in 2020–2021. The percentage of secondary school dropouts increased from 8.2 per cent in 2019 to 10.3 per cent in 2020/21, according to the same survey. ALSO READ: Parliament to assess school dropout as it resumes business The government is increasing the number of TVET schools and the number of classrooms to reduce congestion. TVET schools are expected to accommodate 60% of students who complete ordinary level of high school. “This academic year, every sector among 416 sectors will have at least a TVET school,” she said. The government wants to increase job creation by enrolling at least 60 per cent of students in TVET schools. To improve students’ performance in national exams, Irere also noted that the government is fast-tracking the implementation of the Programme for the International Student Assessment (PISA) and increasing learning hours for English and Maths for primary education level, in addition to awarding best the performing schools and motivating teachers in various ways. Irere said that in primary schools, pupils perform well in Kinyarwanda compared to other subjects during national exams. ALSO READ: Best 2022/2023 PLE, O-Level students reveal secret to success “Kinyarwanda is the subject with the highest academic performance in primary six and senior 3. Most students score above 50 per cent in that subject. Mathematics and science, elementary and technology are the subjects with the lowest academic performance. The majority of the students score less than 50 per cent in those subjects,” she said. In O-Level, chemistry and physics are the subjects with lowest academic performance, scoring below 50 per cent. In A-Level, performance in English, Maths and French is below the expected level, she said. “We should look at what to do to increase performance in Mathematics and sciences. As we celebrate teachers’ day we should check where there is a gap to be fixed,” she said. Outstanding schools awarded Meanwhile, schools that persistently performed well in the last five years were awarded on Thursday. These include EP Espoir de l'Avenir, a private primary school in Bugesera District, FAWE’s Girls’ School, a public secondary school in Kigali, Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology, a private secondary school in Bugesera District, Appega Gahengeri TVET School, a public school in Rwamagana District, and TTC Save, a government-aided school in Gisagara District. “These schools also performed well in 2022/2023 national exams.” The celebration saw 1,058 outstanding teachers awarded with smartphones to promote ICT in education. ALSO READ: Rwanda records reduction in school dropout rate Irere noted that all ongoing efforts go hand in hand and in line with measures to improve the quality of education, especially primary education. Gaspard Twagirayezu, the Minister of Education, also acknowledged that there are still areas that need more effort to achieve quality education in the country. These areas include foundational learning, students’ participation in the learning process, collaborating with parents, technology adoption, and instilling Rwandan values in the education system. Paula Ingabire, the Minister of ICT and Innovation, noted that teachers play a crucial role in advancing the use of technology in education and should first be equipped with knowledge to be able to teach students in primary, secondary, and tertiary levels so that they can join the labour market at least with basic knowledge in ICT. Rwanda has reached 59 percent of technology adoption in the education sector and to build on this trajectory, she said, the government will continue to make progress in providing every teacher with a digital gadget; a laptop and smartphone. According to the national strategy for transformation (NST1) Rwanda planned to increase effort to reduce dropout in primary, lower secondary and upper secondary to 1.2%, 1.7% and 1% respectively by 2024. This would be done through introducing education community workers at Cell levels, improving the school data management system (SDMS) by introducing student identification numbers to track students’ evolution and decreasing school dropouts, as well as collaborating with parents through School General Assembly Committees (SGACs). Universal access to basic infrastructure such as electricity, water, sanitation and internet broadband, was another key component.