The education sector like many others was undeniably affected by the pandemic. However, schools were able to stay open and most of the important school activities went on during 2021. The year 2021 started with students just wrapping off their first term of the academic year of 2020, which had been interrupted by the outbreak of the Coronavirus in March 2020. Below is a summary of how the education sector fared this year amidst the outbreak of the Delta and Omicron variants of coronavirus. Vaccination and strict Covid-19 guidelines in schools Among the first people to receive the Covid-19 jabs were head teachers, teachers, and school staff. Strict Covid-19 guidelines were implemented in schools, for instance, hand washing stations were built at the entrance of every school while social distancing and mandatory mask wearing were introduced. Among other measures were the cancellation of school visiting days to avoid large crowds at schools during the visitations and some schools implemented “home-based care” to take care of any student who might catch the virus. Germain Ngabonziza Principal of Nyanza TVET School said that the students, teachers and everyone in school adjusted to the “new normal” of wearing masks all the time, regularly washing hands and social distancing. “And with this kind of discipline we were able to have a successful academic year compared to 2020 and we did not record any single case of Covid-19 in my school and the students have been studying well with no problem at all,” he said. National Examinations The academic year ran smoothly from January to June, and the 2019/2020 academic year was wrapped for all students and candidates continuing with national exams for the first time in two years. However, the country suffered another wave in July that prompted the government to order a lockdown in Kigali City and eight other districts, forcing some candidates to do their exams during the lockdown and tight Covid-19 restrictions. With the lockdown in place, the government deployed more than 200 buses that would allow the transportation of day scholar candidates to and fro their respective examination centres. Aubaine Ingabire who sat for her Ordinary level national exams and passed attributed her success to hard work and the lack of interruptions. “We went into lockdown a week and a half before the exams and we thought we might not do the exams as planned and maybe lose another year, however, it was not the case and we used that time to remotely revise with friends, and it is to say we still went on and very well did our exams despite the pandemic,” she said. According to the results of the national examinations released in October and November, 82.5 per cent of all primary candidates passed, for ordinary level the passing rate was 86.3 per cent, 85.3 per cent of senior six candidates passed and for TTC and TVET candidates 99.8 per cent and 95.7 per cent of them passed respectively. However, a total of 60,842 students who sat primary and ordinary level examinations, did not pass and fell under the ‘uncategorised’ fifth grading category. The students were not able to advance to the next level and were obliged to repeat their respective grades. In November after the announcement of senior six, TVET, and TTC at least 1,000 candidates filed complaints protesting the grades they were given by the National Examination and School Inspection Authority (NESA). Change of the school calendar and inclusivity The year 2021 saw the official change of the school calendar where an academic year will be beginning in September/October instead of January as it previously was. The change was welcomed by parents, teachers and students especially those who were grateful for the fact that they will no longer be studying during the dry season (May to July) which was difficult for them. This year Rwanda Education Board (REB) rolled out a Competence-Based Curriculum for special needs children - with visual impairment and the ones with hearing loss, in the same light an e-library was introduced for the same children, and another inclusivity policy is under review for TVET schools. This represented a milestone for learners with disabilities, according to Donatella Kanimba, Executive Director of the Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB), saying it was high time the government implemented such incentives. Father Jules Maurice Ntirenganya, the Director of HVP Gatagara a school for children with disabilities said that they are thankful for all these programs that were introduced which will see a more inclusive learning and expose the learners to more learning materials. Stephen Mugisha, an educationist and publisher, said that 2021 offered a “glimmer of hope” in the sector, “For 2020 people panicked due to the novelty of the situation but with the Government of Rwanda responding and managing the situation well it was better, “he said. “Like any other sector, education has been affected and efforts were made for the convention learning through virtual learning programs, but albeit challenges in terms of insufficient tools, infrastructure, especially upcountry, and this meant a little bit of inequality between those who could access online learning vis-à-vis those who could not,” What to look out for next year In November the government started to roll out vaccines to all adolescents in schools, a move many welcomed saying it will help prevent any interruptions in schools in case of surging cases. Ancille Mukarugwiza, a parent of two students who have already received their jabs said that the vaccines will protect her children and they will be able to study with no interruptions of falling sick. “With this kind of protection, we are optimistic that they will be able to study well and in good health in the next year” she added. Germain Ngabonziza Principal of Nyanza TVET School added that he urged all his students to adhere to all the Covid-19 guidelines in place especially during the festive seasons, so they can be safe and come back to school healthy. “For this coming year we look forward to finishing it successfully no matter the circumstances” she added.