Rwanda is a nation focused on achieving long-term sustainable development. It is through hard work, qualitative and quantitative education and new strategies, that these goals will be achieved.
There are priorities and musts in the journey to an intellectual, cultural and creative future; a future contrary to the country’s historical events, which led to, the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Being educated is to be literate. According to UNESCO (2008), literacy is “the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.”
More than 60 percent of the Rwandan Government’s annual budget is dedicated to the education sector; proof that shows the recognition of its role in developing and harnessing the younger generation.
In December 2009, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, emphasized that, “[…] imperative is the education and enlightenment, at least of a critical mass of Rwandans, so that ignorance will never be the cause of civil strife in this country again.”
Ariel and Will Durant were right when they said, “Education is the transmission of civilization.” Being the most important element which is fundamental to education, literacy should be seen as a significant part of sustainable economic and social transformation that leads to the type of development, we all dream of and wish to have.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which include literacy improvement, are also educationally geared mechanisms.
Some recent reports have criticized the new Rwandan education system. These reports mainly evince the difficulties that most teachers are facing in the teaching and training of students in a new language, themselves not having effectively learnt to read and write. The adaptation to facilitate learner-centred teaching in an unfamiliar language of English, doubles their toil.
In her research report, Pamela Connell (2010) recognizes the power of curriculum in education, calling it “a driver of social change and quality education.” Rwanda’s past education systems failed to recognize the role of curriculum in improving students’ and educators’ reading and writing skills. Evidence of this is in Rwanda’s publishing systems. Poor communication skills build a steeper ladder to climb for higher education students studying in journalism, media and more, especially in writing.
One cannot also deny the impact of cultural contexts to the failure of reading and writing in Rwanda. As reading and writing have not been taught in a cultural context, people, especially the young, will never understand and endorse the importance of literacy skills and their practices which are even key to their comprehension. However, it is of great value to understand the importance of reading for writing and vice-versa.
“If students are to make knowledge their own, they must struggle with the details, wrestle with the facts, and rework raw information and dimly understood concepts into language they can communicate to someone else. In short, if students are to learn, they must write,” a National Commission on Writing in the United States noted in its 2006 report.
The Government of Rwanda, together with the private sector, should be urged to use literacy skills’ practices as significant elements to improve the quality of education. Such reforms should start with nursery and lower primary that represent the future of Rwanda. Highlighted also are those literacy skills of effective reading and writing, certain to improve in a cultural context. Hence, partnership of Ministry of Education with the Ministry of Culture would be of great value.
The implementation of a curriculum policy which influences young people to enrich themselves by learning to read with understanding and, write with skill and clarity, would not only be beneficial for themselves and their families, but for the nation of Rwanda. Young people would learn in order to preserve and enhance the record of humanity; to be productive members of a larger community; to be good citizens and good ancestors to those who will follow after them (Gregorian, 2007).
Young people’s literacy skills determine the future of our educational outcome. These are however, also in the hands of today’s parents. Parents, should have a responsibility to send to school, encourage, and to participate and embrace the young generation in order for them to compete in a global learning environment.
The author is the Founder & President of High School Review and author of ‘Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow: A Collection of Poetry on Genocide. He is currently working on his forthcoming book, Hope for Rwanda’s Future: Forgiveness, Reconciliation & Unity after the 1994 Genocide.