EDITORIAL: School-going age children must enjoy their right to education

During his upcountry outreach tours last week, President Paul Kagame warned parents who have neglected their responsibility of ensuring that children go to school.

During his upcountry outreach tours last week, President Paul Kagame warned parents who have neglected their responsibility of ensuring that children go to school.

The President noted that no child in Rwanda should be on the streets since government provides free education.

In 2003, free primary education was introduced as part of government’s policy to ensure inclusive education, improve school enrolment and attendance of children from poor families.

This is because it is children from poor families who stay away from school to do domestic work while others are forced into child labour, in most cases with the knowledge of the parents.  The introduction of free primary education was to ensure that no child of school going age stays home or misses school for any reason.

 To ensure that a child who completes primary continues with uninterrupted learning, in 2006, the government also introduced the nine-year basic free education which meant that a Rwandan child can access free primary and secondary school education.

As a result of this policy, Rwanda went on to register the highest primary school enrolment rates in Africa with the primary net enrolment rate increasing to 97 per cent by 2012 while the completion rate at primary level was 73 per cent by 2012- a dramatic increase from 53 per cent in 2008.

However, unless all stake holders work together, these gains will be undone by the reported increase in cases of school dropouts.   It’s the primary responsibility for a parent to educate a child, and if government shoulders this responsibility through provision of free education, there is no excuse for any parent not to keep children at school.

The concerned authorities should make it a crime for a parent not to send a child to school under the 9-year-basic education programme. This should be supplemented with regular sensitisation of communities on the importance of ensuring that every child is given the opportunity to attend school.