Publishers in drive to promote Kinyarwanda children’s books

As part of the new competency-based curriculum, the government of Rwanda seeks to ensure that Rwandan children are taught in Kinyarwanda from their early years of basic education to help them grasp concepts better. Needless to say, books written in Kinyarwanda go a long way towards achieving this particular goal.
Publishers and buyers interact at the Kinyarwanda children’s books exhibition on Friday. (Samantha Teta)
Publishers and buyers interact at the Kinyarwanda children’s books exhibition on Friday. (Samantha Teta)

As part of the new competency-based curriculum, the government of Rwanda seeks to ensure that Rwandan children are taught in Kinyarwanda from their early years of basic education to help them grasp concepts better. Needless to say, books written in Kinyarwanda go a long way towards achieving this particular goal.

Last week, more than 120 newly-published Kinyarwanda children’s books were displayed by Rwandan publishers through a consortium that brought together buyers and publishers of children’s books. The third of its kind, the consortium was facilitated by Save the Children through a USAID-funded project called ‘Mureka Dusome’ and the Rwanda Children’ Book Initiative.

 

Government institutions, non-governmental organisations, local literacy initiatives and other stakeholders interested in buying children’s books were some of the participants who reaped big from the consortium. Through bulk orders for the books, they got significant reductions in unit costs.

 

Sofia Cozzolino, the technical advisor at Save the Children, told The Education Times that the project has visibly progressed since the first consortium which had only 17 children’s books.

 

“Now we have over 100 books, all written and illustrated by Rwandan artists. With this project we want to ensure that there are more and better Kinyarwanda books and also strengthen the indigenous publishing industry because previously, international companies were dominating,” she said.

“Most books were imported and translated into Kinyarwanda and therefore hardly reflected Rwandan minds and culture. We, therefore, want to raise awareness about the availability of these books and also stress the importance of reading in Kinyarwanda in early years, especially for children,” she said.

William Whipple, the business representative of Teach Rwanda, emphasised the need for art in children’s books to be as interesting as the story itself.

“We need books that not only have a good plot but also exciting illustrations and art work that fully engages and spikes the curiosity of children. I would also like to see books written both in English and Kinyarwanda to enhance their prowess in both languages,” he said.

“I appreciate the effort the government of Rwanda is investing into creating a culture of reading. Parents can also play their role by reading to children even in the simplest of ways like reading signs on the roads or even the words on packages. Also there is an app called Library for All sponsored by the Imbuto foundation which has over 600 books both in Kinyarwanda and English,” he added.

Fiston Mudacumura, the proprietor of Mudacumura Publishing House, highlighted stiff competition from more competent international publishers as one of the major problems retarding the industry.

“Also, the culture of buying books is still relatively low. In most cases even the few who purchase books for children mainly buy academic textbooks and less of non-academic content. The competency of local publishers can be improved through more capacity building campaigns,” he said.

Mudacumura added there was need for a united effort between the government and other concerned stakeholders to upgrade the local publishing sector.

“We also need policy makers to ease the process of approving locally-published books and also introduce policies that favour publishers for the industry to grow,” he added.

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