Primary schools operating boarding sections have three years to phase it out as the government has moved to have all pupils in the country as day scholars.
Cabinet approved the decision that gives exception to special needs pupils on Thursday.
Speaking during a post-Cabinet media briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kigali, yesterday, the Minister of State in Charge of Primary and Secondary Education, Olivier Rwamukwaya, said the Ministerial Order determining instructions for establishing boarding primary and secondary schools was adopted to ensure parents inculcate a culture of fostering their own children closely until such a time that they are old enough to be away from daily parental guidance.
“Boarding in primary school is not allowed forthwith; schools that already have boarding section have a grace period of three years to phase out the section. We want children to grow up in families and with their parents,” Rwamukwaya said.
There are 34 boarding primary schools in the country.
“We want to emphasise the principle of a child being raised by parents, boarding schools will only start at secondary school level. Parents should know that it’s their primary responsibility to raise their children,” Rwamukwaya added.
However, the minister clarified that boarding schooling for pupils would be allowed under special exceptions such as children living with disabilities.
“Such schools (for special needs) will have to be authorised by the Ministry of Education. Before taking this decision, we consulted the National Children’s Council, the Ministries of Gender and Family Promotion, and Local Government and Social Affairs. This is in line with the policy of closing orphanages since some people wanted to change the status of orphanages into boarding primary schools,” Rwamukwaya said.
The head teacher of Good Foundation Centre for Education, Theophile Munyampuhwe, said as long as the policy is in the interest of the children then schools will have to abide by it.
“We need to sit with the Ministry of Education and see how both the schools and the children will be affected and as well look into the practicability of the policy but everything will be done in the interests of the children,” said Munyampuhwe.
Good Foundation Centre for Education is a privately owned primary boarding school based in Nyagatare District, Eastern Province.
Meanwhile, the ban was approved alongside a new regulation that sanctions parents who do not send their children to school and other persons who employ children in labour, thus preventing them from going to or causing them to drop out of school.
With the new policy, every parent is now obliged to take their children to school and every school must receive and ensure that there are no obstacles that would stop the child from acquiring education, Rwamukwaya said.
“Anyone who violates that will be punished by the law. The community also has a watchdog obligation to ensure every child’s rights aren’t abused,” he said.
“This is also in line with the Presidential Order establishing a District Education Fund designed to help destitute learners to pay school costs which was also approved by the cabinet. The Fund should be operational by February next year and it will ensure children have school equipment. We don’t want any excuse as to why children can’t go to school.”
Explaining the policy, the Minister in charge of Cabinet Affairs, Stella Ford Mugabo, said it should have been enacted 20 years ago but there was still need to put in place measures that would facilitate children to go to school and not drop out.
“With the universal access to education and continued sensitisation, we believe all parents now understand the need to educate their children, that’s why we felt we should make it a condition to have all children go to school. Any person who doesn’t take a child to school today is not doing it out of ignorance; its intentional,” she said.
Available figures from the Ministry of Education indicate that, in 2013, school dropout in primary in stood at 12.4 per cent, in ordinary level at 14.7 per cent and 6.2 per cent at A-Level.