Parents welcome discarding Kinyarwanda as primary school language of instruction

A teacher delivers a lesson to pupils of SOS Children Village Kacyiru. Photo: S. Ngendahimana.

Different stakeholders in the education sector have welcomed the move by the Ministry of Education to rescind a recent policy directive that instruction be exclusively done in Kinyarwanda for the first three years of education.

The latest change, that concerns lower primary classes (primary one to primary three), was announced on December 2, during a consultative meeting between the education ministry and legal representatives of private primary schools.


Besides the legal representatives, the meeting was also attended by head teachers from the same schools.


This new policy, which now instructs all public and private schools to use English as the language of instruction throughout primary school, will come into effect at the start of the 2020-2021 academic year.


Instruction in Kinyarwanda in lower primary school came into force in 2015 as part of the competency-based curriculum, which required schools – public and private – to teach other languages as subjects.

But the directive had faced resistance, especially in private schools and had hardly been implemented, despite being in place for four years.

“We are very impressed by the adjustment, which is very positive to us, parents and children as well,” Charles Mutazihana, Principal of Kigali Parents School, told The New Times.

He added: “It wouldn’t have been easy for us and children to abruptly switch from the medium of instruction we were familiar with.”

Some parents say that the change will benefit more the learners by opening them to better opportunities in the future, saying that Kinyarwanda will always be taught as a subject and spoken at home.

“The move came as an answer to our concerns as parents; we had been confused about what to do because our children were to be victims of the change,” said William Bundungu, a parent whose son is in lower primary.

Alternative curriculum

In response to the change, some private schools had proposed to parents to choose whether their children could continue with the national curriculum or go for Cambridge programme in the 2020-2021 year of study.

Cambridge Assessment International Education is the world’s largest provider of international education programmes and qualifications for 5 to 19-year-olds.

Schools like Kigali Parents School had actually introduced the Cambridge programme that would run parallel with the national curriculum starting next academic year to offer parents an alternative to the exclusive instruction in Kinyarwanda.

However, for parents like Jackline Mukamunana, who have a child at Kigali Parents School and had already enlisted her primary three daughter into the new programme, there was a risk of schools that are allowed to run the programme increasing fees due to overwhelming numbers.  

“Many parents, including me, had chosen Cambridge programme because we want our children to be competitive by knowing several languages at a young age,” Mukamunana told The New Times.

She also noted that: “We appreciated the decision because, though the Cambridge programme would be better, it would in the future lead to increased school fees; a burden to parents.”

Some teachers also express relief having previously feared possible loss of jobs.

Théogène Nshimiyimana, a teacher in lower primary classes at Ecole Sainte Angeline les pigeons, said that: “As teachers, we were happy after learning of the changes, because some of us would have lost our jobs as a result of using Kinyarwanda as the medium of instruction.”

He added: “This is so because some parents had decided to take their children to schools that offer international curriculum, which would have forced some of our schools to close shop or reduce on the number of teachers.”

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