In Rwanda, Nine Year Basic Education Arrangement is Working

By Godfrey Ntagungira A number of children shared with me, all of them had a one commonality: they had lost hope. They were brilliant but they had financial and social constraints that could not permit them or their families to finance their schooling.

By Godfrey Ntagungira

A number of children shared with me, all of them had a one commonality: they had lost hope. They were brilliant but they had financial and social constraints that could not permit them or their families to finance their schooling.

Thanks to nine year basic education, it has restored hope in their lives.
More and more community beneficiaries have their testimonies to give on how the nine year basic education has helped them. Below is a testimony of Doreen Mwihoreze,
“My mother was sick and could no longer do much farm work to support us. I went to stay with my aunt who was also poor and could not pay for my school fees. I thought it was the end of the story for me as far as going to school.

I was desperate and did not know who to turn to anymore,” says Mwihoreze, primary three student in Kiramuruzi sector, Gatsibo district, who became a universal education beneficiary at the right moment in her life.

In summary, the nine year basic education policy aims to universalize primary education, and increase completion rates. Capacity at Tronc Commun level is being increased so as to improve the gross enrolment rate at this level of education and increase the transition rate from primary school and to continue the existing trend of a rapidly-increasing skills base, in line with the needs of a changing, expanding economy that requires a high skill labor force.

Nine year basic education intends to put in place measures to provide a rapid increase of children going to general cycle of secondary education. The objectives under nine year basic education policy include:

1) Each child must start and complete primary education within the specified period.

2) Rapid increase in the number of children enrolling in Tronc Commun to ensure that each child has the opportunity of nine year basic education that can enable him/her to cope with life.

This has involved producing a logical framework which clearly sets out the purpose of the education sector in relation to the overall goal of government which is to reduce poverty, increase economic growth and in turn to improve the well-being of its population.

In signing up to the millennium goals the government of Rwanda committed itself to creating universal education for all and pillar one of the Rwanda’s Vision 2020 document emphasizes the importance of quality education.

All aspects of government have put a renewed focus on education since 2003 when the ministry of education devised its national curriculum policy for primary and secondary education, to be implemented in a six year plan, and stated that primary education should be free and mandatory for all children.

Educating a child is intrinsically linked to poverty reduction and improving other development indicators such as reducing maternal and child mortality rates, reducing birth rates and improving health indicators of entire families.

This is in line with ministry of education global goal of the government of Rwanda  to reduce poverty and in turn to improve the well being of its population.

Within this context the ministry of education has got a mission to fight ignorance and illiteracy and provide human resource useful for social economic development of Rwanda through education system.

The year 2009 saw the introduction of nine year basic education for all Rwandan children free of charge. Before the programme was implemented, many Rwandan children were unable to access education, hampering their chances for a good start in life.

As well as promoting universal primary education, the programme hopes to reduce the number of pupils having to repeat years and the number of those who drop out.


Rwanda is close to reaching universal education, today primary school enrollment stands at 97 percent for boys and 98percent for girls.

we have some of the highest enrollment rates in the region basing on the UNESCO. Secondary education is also nearly universal, with a rate of about 92 percent this year.

This programme got a boost following the recent schools construction campaign which saw thousands of new class rooms built across the country. Nearly all the new class rooms were built voluntarily by parents, students, security forces and government officials.


The main principle of a child-friendly school is a simple one at heart: schools operate in the best interests of the child.  The ministry of education is making it possible that learning space is safe, healthy and protective, endowed with trained teachers and adequate resources conducive to learning.

The places where children feel all their needs are being met. In a child-friendly school, a child has a chance to get vaccinated, eat a nourishing lunch and be taught important life skills to protect themselves from diseases such as HIV and AIDS.

If we fail to provide children with quality education, we fail ourselves. The cost of giving a child an education is far less than dealing with the consequences of ignorance.


Rwanda has made strides in universal basic education; the government of Rwanda has also made tremendous progress in increasing access to universities. Back in 1994 Rwanda had only one university which is the National University of Rwanda (NUR) which was founded in 1963. And it is amazing that in the 30 years after it opened, NUR had only produced 1,800 graduates.

Currently Rwanda has 16 universities whereby seven of them are public and other nine privately owned. Together population of 57,000, the public universities enroll over 44.000 students in undergraduate, graduate, certificate and diploma programs.

The private institutions accredited by high education council (HEC) to award bachelors’ degrees, enroll more than 13,000 students per year, a number which is rising due to the growing level of part time students.

The Ministry of Education established the monitoring and standardization of Rwanda’s universities which has been helped enormously by the creation of two bodies. The establishment of the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) in 2005 has also facilitated to ensure that Rwandan universities meet international standards and many institutions have upgraded their standards as a result of its scrutiny.

To ensure that all students are judged on a fair and equal basis, the government established the Rwanda national examination council in 2000 to standardize and mark national exams.


Incentives remain strong for individuals to complete primary education as well as to pursue post-primary education; i.e. to complete basic education and beyond. The skill premium for semi-skilled workers has actually risen despite the increase in the proportion of such workers in the economy.

The EDPRS framework states: “In education and skills development, the emphasis is on increasing the coverage of nine year basic education, strengthening Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET), and improving the quality of tertiary education.”    

Another area of interest in the EDPRS is an increase in vocational/technical training.  Analysis showed that those with some Vocational/Technical education did appear to earn considerably more and were disproportionately engaged in the secondary sector compared to those who left school after completing primary education.
Nine year basic education and enrollments are growing rapidly:  Rwanda should achieve the MDGs for education in the next five years The Ministry of Education has developed a range of draft policies and proposals that provide a useful foundation for a comprehensive strategy.

Nine year basic education is described as: “All children to be able to get education in nine years, this is made up of six years of primary education and three years of general cycle of secondary education without paying school fees.

This means all children of school age must go to school. Also children must remain in school and complete their education within the set number of years. Reducing repetition and drop out rates are key to this.

The government of Rwanda takes a free education for all as the single most important element in reducing poverty in the country, economic and social empowerment. Literacy rates were high and those days there was only one university in the whole country.

Today, Rwanda is leading the way on education reforms in Africa, offering nine years of free education, training teachers in great number and to a higher level than ever before.


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