ON Thursday September 8, the world marked International Literacy Day.
Media reports indicate that more people have acquired literacy skills in Rwanda.
Where before 1994 the country had only one university and a handful of graduates, it is a totally different scenario today. Most of the provinces boast of at least one institution of higher leaning. On the average, 3,000 students graduate annually.
Higher education in the country has exponentially grown at almost the same pace as the other sectors in Rwanda over the past 17 years.
I, therefore, do not lose any sleep regarding the future of literacy because it is on the right track as all children are offered equal opportunity.
But a look at the reading culture is a little disconcerting. I wonder who will cultivate it among our children. Teachers and parents seem to have little or no time at all to promote reading.
During my school days, I noticed that very few students made use of the library. Those who attempted to do so were dubbed bookworms, a rather demeaning moniker!
Students only get busy in the process of completing their course-work or during examinations in order to pass.
If the reading culture among our students were to be evaluated during examinations, students would certainly be driven to develop a penchant for books. However, this is not the case.
The advent of pamphlets has not helped the situation in schools.
Cultivating a reading culture is not a simple task. It takes the combined efforts of teachers, parents and even political leaders.
Teachers should, for instance, conduct lessons and encourage students to conduct research. In this case, they would be compelled to read widely and make notes about that particular subject.
If reading books, magazines, and newspapers is an important means through which learning and access to information take place, then schools and parents must make every effort to introduce the reading culture to our children at an early age.
Pupils often approached me when I was Bureau Chief of the New Times in Musanze, Bugesera and even after my transfer. On many occasions, they asked me for ‘Ibifuniko’ (scrap paper) to cover their exercise books.
On many cases, I repeatedly declined to give out the newpapers to the pupils leading to their frustration. I had my reasons for it. One is that I wanted them to understand that a newspaper is primarily an information tool –not ‘Ibifuniko’.
When children are conditioned to read regularly, it enables them to acquire the necessary reading speed and skills needed for various practical purposes in the future.
Efficient professionals are characterised by the ability to read and understand written messages quickly.
It may be hard to get white-collar jobs that do not require fast, efficient, and creative reading.
Wide reading does not only provide us with general knowledge but also expands our creativity.
The government should promote libraries in the same way it is rooting for literacy.
Some of the education grants meant for classrooms construction should be diverted to build school libraries. There are barely any libraries in the countryside.
Years ago, I held discussions with a teacher who mooted the idea of opening a community library to not only enhance people’s welfare but also inform them and cultivate a reading culture.
Today, if that person, who happens to have a passion for reading, implemented such an idea- no doubt it would attract many.