Why it is essential to encourage young writers

A writing and reading culture must start at an early age. Michel Nkurunziza.

Efforts to promote a writing and reading culture are taking shape as the initiative is already promoting authors of school-going age.

Justine Uwimana, a teenager from Huye in Southern Province, started writing books last year and participated in a writing and reading competition organised by the Ministry of Sports and Culture and other partners in the education sector. She is currently in S5 studying literature.

Her book, titled Uwamahoro yabaye intangarugero (loosely translated as Uwamahoro has become exemplary), was issued by Bakame Editions, a publishing house for youth literature. She recently presented it during the third edition of a book fair held at Amahoro indoor stadium that concluded on Friday.

The story is about the life of a girl called Uwamahoro who was raised singlehandedly by her father. Her mother died shortly after childbirth.

At the age of seven, Uwamahoro’s father remarried—a lady called Mukamana, who had another child called Uwineza.

Uwamahoro and Uwineza went to the same primary school. Uwamahoro studied hard and performed well and was awarded by her school.

However, her stepmother became jealous of her and started mistreating her because she was performing better than her own child.

Friends told Uwamahoro not to give up despite the challenges, and so she did not drop out of school.

She continued working hard and passed the national exams with flying colours, and joined high school. In short, she persevered, continued to do well, was sent to study in Kenya and later became a medical doctor.

“I wrote this story because I see many children who are dispirited due to many problems and drop out of school. I encourage children everywhere not to give up or lose hope, instead, look on the bright side and work hard for a better future,” says Uwimana.

Jolie Ndungutse Benihirwe is a student at Nyanza Technical School. She wrote the book Ingabire w’I Nyamure (translated as Ingabire who lives in Nyamure).

In the book, Ingabire comes from a vulnerable family, they can barely afford a meal.

She tries to solve this problem—by stealing. She steals money from a classmate to buy food.

She solves one issue but causes another.

The book highlights how problems should not let us ‘lose our way’.

“I was inspired to write books since we rarely see published children’s books. I wish to continue writing so that I do it for a living and curb unemployment,” she says.

Beatha Nyirabarezi, the Ag Director of the National Library in the Ministry of Sports and Culture, says the writing and reading culture should start at an early age.

“We exhibit different volumes including children’s books, books for adults that talk about diverse topics such as culture, history, science and technology. We urge children to write books and embrace a reading culture,” she says.

Nyirabarezi says that this culture should go hand-in-hand with establishing libraries across the country.

“We have to develop a book industry starting from writers, publishers, and designers, printers, all the way to retailers, libraries and readers. That is why we have to inculcate a reading and writing culture in children so that they grow with such passion,” she says.

She says that Rwandans should look at the industry as a business opportunity.

“Once people fully embrace a reading culture, writers and publishers will also get market as they can sell more. Business opportunities are found along the whole publishing chain,” Nyirabarezi says.