Are efforts to promote reading culture taking shape?

REB has copyrights to all books set to be put on a digital platform. Net photo.

Literacy month concluded on September 30, with a call to increase the effort in improving a reading culture through various mechanisms.

In this light, the government and stakeholders have launched a country-wide pilot phase to boost the reading culture through the monthly community work — Umuganda, among other channels.  

The new programme is to be implemented by Save the Children Rwanda and Umuhuza Organization, under Mureke Dusome, a USAID-funded project.

Patrick Manzi, the representative of 67 volunteers who assist children with reading, says that they help children to improve reading in Kinyarwanda as the mother language before taking on other languages.

 “The programme is important and we are experiencing significant results. We have 47 children in Gasabo District who wrote their own books using local materials. We request parents to help children embrace a reading culture as this starts at home,” he says.

There are over 500 volunteers inculcating reading countrywide — in children and adults, Manzi says. 

Solange Umwizerwa, the deputy chief of party in Mureke Dusome, says that the programme will help children in P1, P2 and P3 get advanced knowledge in reading.

It is a joint feat that involves government, parents and development partners to contribute to quality of reading. 

There are 2, 524 associations of reading countrywide in every village that accommodates government schools.

Since 2016, over 800 different books were written by children.

Jeanne Urimubenshi’s daughter attends in Kinyinya sector. She says that she helps her child to read when she comes from school.

“My child is in first year of kindergarten; when she comes from school, she takes a rest and before I start evening home activities, I help her to read syllables from the book I bought for her, and she likes it very much,” she says.

DIGITAL LIBRARIES

In the next two years, government will have all books in digital platform, which will ease the process of setting up digital libraries in all schools across the country as a way of increasing a reading culture and improving quality education.

Joan Murungi, Head of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Resources Department at Rwanda Education Board (REB), says that the target will be possible in partnership with different associates, including publishers.

“We have bought copyrights of all books published for the education sector, meaning that we have soft copies of all those books that must be uploaded in the national digital platform within the two next years, and then ease the process of the establishment of digital libraries as the next chapter,” she says.

Murungi adds that the move is part of the initiative to increase access to books and, enhance reading culture. 

After REB took the initiative to locally publish books, former publishers also gave it copyrights to photocopy about 120 book titles, and 46 books are being duplicated for teacher training colleges’ students.

“Reading culture is still low but with the measures we have taken to locally publish books and set up digital libraries in schools, the culture will improve. 

“That is why we are working with many stakeholders who play a role in book production, deployment and digitalising. Digital libraries will fill in the gap of books that are not available in schools,” she says.

Murungi says that they are also developing guidelines for ordinary library standards.

“We will be monitoring all schools to assess if these standards are being observed. This will promote a reading culture. This step will make the libraries operate under international standards,” she says. 

The official explains that REB has developed a digital platform that will facilitate the establishment of digital libraries in schools.

The libraries, she notes, must have desks and computers with internet connection. 

 “Once the digital libraries are set up, they will be connected to worldwide digital libraries so that students access all books from other schools in the world online. Under the smart classrooms initiative, we will continue to deploy computers in schools to equip digital libraries,” she says.

Murungi mentions that people with smartphones will be able to use the online library.

“We will also rate schools in terms of promoting reading culture based on such elements,” she says, adding that they are also developing interactive content, especially in science subjects.

“The interactive content will help science teachers conduct and prepare lessons by asking questions from the platform. We are working with funders,” she says.

Murungi recently spoke during the book fair by Rwanda Publishers at the Car-Free zone in Kigali, organised in partnership with Save the Children and the Ministry of Sports And Culture among others.

Isaie Micomyiza, Chairman of Rwanda Children Book Organization (RCBO), a professional member-based organisation that fosters the growth of the children’s publishing industry in Rwanda, says that books are still not enough, but significant effort is being added in publishing more books.

Last year, he says, each of the 15 members of RCBO published between 20 to 25 book titles, but there is need for more tools to make them accessible to people for reading. 

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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