The Ministry of Education has announced plans to launch a nationwide reading campaign aimed at increasing public awareness about the importance of reading and to cultivate a reading tradition among the Rwandan people.
While it is a widely believed that many Rwandans are not enthusiastic readers, experience, over the past few years, has shown that the people of this country are actually dynamic, with open minds and quick to adjust to new practices.
A reading culture should ideally be anchored on certain basic factors, including the level of literacy and the availability of reading materials, among others. There has been remarkable progress in these areas over the past few years.
It is clear that the national literacy campaign has resulted in tangible benefits, with the illiteracy rate having been halved – to a promising 25 percent – in just about a decade, with the aim of attaining 85 percent and 80 percent literacy levels among men and women, respectively, by the end of the year.
It is also encouraging that the book to student ratio has since improved to 1:1, which is complemented by such programmes as the ‘Mobile Reading’ campaign, which helps avail books to schools on a rational basis. The few existing libraries have also tried to open more branches, although most of them are still confined to the City of Kigali.
However, developing a reading culture needs more than just availing textbooks and lowering illiteracy levels. It needs a sustained participatory approach, whereby everyone, from parents, teachers, religious leaders to the community at large, actively nurture a lifetime love of reading among the young ones. We must learn to avail books to our children, read for them, at the same time encourage them to visit libraries and to read different publications, especially during their free time.
Ultimately, this will also help nurture a writing culture.