Last week a cabinet meeting decided that henceforth English language would be used as the medium of instruction in schools. This directive goes for higher institutions as well.
French has been used predominantly, Rwanda having many cultural influences stemming from its colonial Belgian and French past.
There is a general fear that there will be a great set-back in education standards, since many schools are still using French to teach.
Much as the ministry of Education no doubt has a clear workable timetable as to when to start implementing this policy, there is no need whatsoever for anyone to push panic buttons.
The Rwandan government has proven itself time and again that the only agenda it is pushing is for Rwandans’ development.
In a general sense therefore, the leaders who are acting in the best interests of the country, cannot make decisions that are detrimental to that development.
In a more specific sense, as Rwanda fully integrates in the East African Community (EAC), there is great need to harmonise many aspects of our dealings, and official communication is just one of them.
There is no need for Rwanda and Burundi, the latest entrants to the EAC, should be incapacitated in the issue of language when dealing with our counterparts – it would be an unfair disadvantage to hold over us, when it could have been rectified right from the beginning of our association.
It is important to note though, that French should not be totally thrown out of the window.
The knowledge of French and other international languages like Spanish or Chinese is an additional boon for such a person.
On the international job-hunting stage, the knowledge of more than one international language is always advantageous.
Until a few years ago, Swahili was regarded as a mere coastal language; but now it has become accepted as the lingua franca of the entire East African region and even beyond.
In our region now, people who can speak Swahili are more comfortable than those who don’t.
So it should be with French, and other languages. Children should be encouraged to learn the languages.
It is the medium of instruction that is going to change; the French language itself has not been banned from use.