Calls for Kinyarwanda signage in public institutions

Many have decried the lack of signposts in Kinyarwanda at hospitals and public institutions, saying that it was a major hindrance to their ability to easily access services.

Many have decried the lack of signposts in Kinyarwanda at hospitals and public institutions, saying that it was a major hindrance to their ability to easily access services. 

The majority of signposts in public institutions are in English and French.


Visitors to Kigali hospitals revealed to The New Times that the signposts written in foreign languages confuses them.


Jeremy Bagaragaza was transferred from Kabuye Health Centre in Jabana Sector to CHUK (University Teaching Hospital of Kigali). He complained that he cannot understand the foreign language sign posts at the hospital.


“When I entered here (CHUK), I could not understand the signposts. Everything is written in English. I do not speak a language other than Kinyarwanda. I wish the signposts could be written in three official languages (Kinyarwanda, English and French) to help us,’’ he said.

A patient in Kibagabaga hospital, Aline Uwingeneye, said that when she entered the hospital she could not get understand anything written on the signposts and had to ask for assistance.

“I face this problem whenever I come to Kigali hospitals. I am forced to ask hospital workers to direct me to the right place. I always get confused about the terminologies used on signposts. I ask myself, who are these signposts provided for? Is it for foreigners or Rwandans? I wish they could first use our mother tongue and then translate the signs into other foreign languages,” she requested.

Reacting to the complaints, Dr. Theobald Hategekimana, the Director of CHUK, said that new Kinyarwanda signposts would be added next year.

“We received claims from the population and we are dealing about the problem. The posts are being written and by the beginning of next year they will have been posted. The posts will be helpful. They will save time spent by the patients and visitors asking for directions.” Hategekimana said.

Banks embrace Kinyarwanda

Maurice Toroitich, Managing Director at Kenya Commercial Bank, told The New Times that they have taken measures to ensure that bank documents are also written in Kinyarwanda. 

“Most documents are written in English because it is the most used language in business.  However, our customers need excellent care. So, we are solving the (language) problem faced by our customers while filling in some bank documents. When a client claims that he/she does not understand the language (English), we immediately provide an equivalent document in the language they understand,” Toroitich said. 

Ela Rubibi, an Equity Bank client, is satisfied with the manner in which the Kenyan bank has tackled the issue of language and advises other businesses to do likewise.

“This bank has dealt with the language issue well, with many of its services provided in the different languages spoken, including Kinyarwanda. However, there are other institutions that do not pay much attention to their customers. The customer is a king.  With no customers there would be no services or businesses,” he said

Language academy speaks out

An official from the Rwanda Academy of Language and Culture has urged all public institutions to embrace Kinyarwanda. 

Nsanzabaganwa Modeste, in charge of the language department at the Academy, says that sensitizing people about their language was paramount. 

“We are fighting against the misuse and ignorance of our mother-tongue. Foreign languages should not hinder the use of our mother tongue. Some English words are being used as Kinyarwanda words like maternity, morgue among others. We are urging institutions that receive many people such as hospitals and banks to use the three official languages,” he said.

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