Statistics released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) indicate that the literacy rate in Rwanda stands at over 70 percent, which on face value sounds positive until one compares it with other countries.
Ranked 119 out of 152 countries, it is an indicator that we still have a long way to go for Rwanda to fully achieve a knowledge-based economy.
Knowing how to read or write is not an end in itself, but using the skills to further educate oneself is what matters; therefore the need to promote a reading culture.
That has been the anthem sang by educationists for decades; that Rwandans need to graduate from their oral-inspired form of information to the written word.
Most Rwandan’s source of information is the radio for one reason; publications, be it books or magazines are beyond the reach of many, the reason why one newspaper circulates from one hand to another until it is literally worn out.
One main area the government needs to focus in order to improve the reading culture is making reading materials easily accessible, subsidising printing material and opening more reading centres (libraries).
There is no short cut to literacy. It has to be inculcated systematically. Parents and teachers must interest children in reading from a tender age.
Reading clubs in schools should be mandatory and more libraries should be established and equipped with a variety of books. As long as there is only one major library (even then, a private initiative) in the city, and a bookshop here and there, inroads towards a highly literate society will remain a pipe dream. If the cheapest newspaper is one US$ or more, few people will be able to afford it. The problem will even be compounded if one had to buy a daily paper.
Therein lies the key to elevating literacy rates; making reading material easily accessible.