PM Ngirente urges concerted effort to promote girls’ education

PM Ngirente: There is still inadequate female representation in professions linked sciences, technologies, engineering and mathematics.
Chadian President Idriss Déby Itno, Rwanda’s Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente (left), and La Francophonie secretary-general Louise Mushikiwabo applaud at the conference in the Chadian capital of N’Djamena on Tuesday. / Courtesy

Despite recent gains made in girls and women education and training across the world, there is need to tackle existing challenges such as school dropout, Rwanda’s Prime Minister has said.

Edouard Ngirente made the observation Tuesday during an international conference on girls’ education and training for women in the Francophonie community, in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad.

“We have to continue preventing school dropout especially for girls in the lower and upper secondary,” he said, also calling on governments to actively promote enrolment of girls in science subjects.

“There is still inadequate female representation in professions linked sciences, technologies, engineering and mathematics, while there is also need to scale up efforts to increase the rate of girls’ enrolment in higher learning, technical and professional institutions,” Ngirente said.

The event was organised by the International Organisation of Francophonie in partnership with the Government of the Republic of Chad.

“It is obvious that for us to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we have to ensure universal access to quality education, and this has to be done equally for both girls and boys. We should also promote opportunities for women’s training,” he said.

Experience, the premier said, has shown that girls’ education contributes to national economic development as does that of boys.

The meeting was also attended by Chad President Idriss Déby Itno and La Francophonie secretary-general, Louise Mushikiwabo.

Sharing Rwanda’s experience, Ngirente said the country undertook a deliberate effort to continuously award to top performing schoolgirls, particularly those pursuing Sciences, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) courses, and this is paying off. 

He said that, in 2008, Rwanda developed an education policy aimed at progressively eliminating gender disparities in education, training and management of educational structures.

“We introduced a universal and free 12-year-basic education which provides opportunities for all students who complete primary school to access secondary education for six years,” he said, adding that the schools are now more accessible since they are within communities.

At the level of pre-primary education, Ngirente said, net enrolment of girls has more than doubled over the last eight years.

In Rwanda’s primary education, girls’ net enrolment was at 98 per cent in 2018, while there were also significant gains in secondary, technical and professional education.

The prime minister also cited the recent opening of Rwanda Coding Academy, which has since admitted many top-performing schoolgirls.

He also told delegates that women occupy 61 per cent of seats in Rwanda’s Lower House of Parliament, 50 per cent in Cabinet, while women also account for 43 per cent of judges at the Supreme Court, and 43 per cent for members of district advisory councils.

According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates, 130 million girls between the age of six and 17 are out of school while 15 million girls of primary-school age – half of them in sub-Saharan Africa – have no chance to go to school.

The World Bank says that poverty remains the most important factor for determining whether a girl can access an education.