Education experts at a two-day conference in Kigali are discussing ways of increasing literacy among young Rwandan children.
The conference was organised by Education Development Centre, Rwanda Education Board, the Ministry of Education, and USAID under the theme, “Rwanda early grade literacy instruction: building on strong foundation.”
Participants include education officials, teachers, civil society members and development partners.
The meeting is looking at the essential role of competency-based literacy as the gateway to quality teaching and learning in all primary education subject areas.
Opening the conference, yesterday, Dr Papias Musafiri, the minister for education, said the role of literacy instruction in the new competency-based curriculum, best practices in early grade literacy instruction and strategies to ensure that all learners leave primary school able to read and write with comprehension and fluency will be among the topics of discussion.
“May every partner consider it a great opportunity to challenge ourselves and find answers that will help us to overcome key obstacles in early reading as a foundation for broader education progress. I am confident that after the two-day deliberations, we will have come up with several solutions,” he said.
The presentations and interactive sessions are drawing from lessons learned from the five-year USAID-funded Literacy, Language and Learning (L3) initiative – that runs in all primary schools.
Erica J. Barks Ruggles, the US ambassador to Rwanda, said Rwanda has done a tremendous job in improving access to education for every child.
“We are proud to have been partners in this. Over the past three years, USAID has developed, printed and distributed more than seven million quality teaching and learning materials nationwide. The US will continue its support for Kinyarwanda early grade reading through a new $73.5m project that begins later this year,” she said.
The envoy, however, said the Rwandan education setting still faces challenges, citing high teacher-pupil ratio, inadequate teaching materials and few teachers that are proficient in both in Kinyarwanda and English.
She urged Rwandan educationists to engage technology in learning, saying “technology can be a tool that can be used to spread learning faster.”
According to an assessment done by USAID through L3, there has been improvement in child literacy.
In 2014, a Primary One child would read 4.8 correct words per minute, a Primary Two child could read 19.2 correct words while a Primary Three child could read 22.1 correct words per minute.
In 2015, however, a Primary One child could read 7.5 correct words per minute, a Primary Two child 21.5, and a Primary Three child 25.1 words.
To-date, L3 has distributed more than seven million student books in English and Kinyarwanda, 56,965 teachers’ guides, 27,334 read-aloud story corrections and 15,744 cellphones and speakers for playing audio lessons. It has also trained more than 23,328 teachers in literacy instruction.
Christie Vilsack, the USAID senior advisor for education, said child literacy is not only a responsibility for schools but also for families and communities.