Calls for reading culture as Rwanda marks Literacy Day

Experts have warned that unless the reading culture in the country improves, it will be a long way before Rwanda attains its aspirations of being a knowledge-based economy.
Readers search for books at Kigali Library Services in Kacyiru. (File)
Readers search for books at Kigali Library Services in Kacyiru. (File)

Experts have warned that unless the reading culture in the country improves, it will be a long way before Rwanda attains its aspirations of being a knowledge-based economy.

The observations came ahead of today’s celebrations of the International Literacy Day, set by the United Nations in 1946.

Rwanda’s reading culture should “go beyond the classroom” and be embraced by the majority of the population, according to experts.

The day’s international theme is; “Literacy for Sustainable Development”, while the local theme developed by the Ministry of Sports and Culture is “Stand Up for Literacy”.

“Reading should become a part of us. Reading beyond classrooms and school settings is crucial because it helps one develop their mental prowess and analytical skills,” Stephen Mugisha, an educationist, author and publisher, told The New Times yesterday.

“If you don’t read, you are less informed and you, therefore, lack sufficient knowledge to contribute  toward Rwanda’s target of becoming a knowledge-based society.”

Mugisha challenged scholars to “separate literacy from reading”, arguing that many young people stop reading after school, with a false notion that they are a complete package after graduation.

“Many people are groomed in a setting where education is still about acquiring a certain level of literacy. Beyond school, people start to resent books. In the end, even after graduation, they still lack proper information, critical thinking and analysis, which can only be improved by reading widely,” he said.

Phoebe Nassozi, a teacher of  English at Escaf Primary School, Nyamirambo, reckons that literacy has improved ever since the introduction of the Nine-Year Basic Education Programme in 2012.

“Government worked hard to curb illiteracy by introducing Nine-Year Basic Education Programme and, so far, school drop-outs have tremendously declined, while literacy levels have also gone up,” she said.

“Parents used to think that children should go to school when they are eight or nine years. Many of them now realise that kindergarten is good for their children at an earlier age, so by the time they reach primary school they can read and write.”

Rwanda Library Services, in Kacyiru, will today organise reading and spelling competitions for kindergarten, primary and secondary school students, with the US Ambassador to Rwanda, Donald W. Koran, is expected to grace the event.

The Minister for Sports and Culture, Joseph Habineza, will also lead other officials in discussing a book titled “The New Rwanda: Success and Challenges on the Ground”, published by the University of Scranton.

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