The pre-primary level is in poor shape and has the least government financial support yet it determines a child’s following stages of growth.
This was revealed by Theoneste Niyonzima who is in charge of pre-primary education in the Ministry of education.
He disclosed that the Ministry of Education dedicates 0.005percent of the budget to pre-primary schools which he said is the cause of the poor shape of the schools.
But he said that the funds aren’t aimed at children’s wellbeing but training of teachers.
“The money is used to train teachers but doesn’t cater for other essential needs. It is the parents that meet other things,” he said.
He added that; “Grade 1, 2 and 3, that is where we have problems in Rwanda.
The pre primary schools lack qualified teachers, proper sanitation, children are in poor health, and they don’t have social security. It is not a priority of Rwanda.”
Niyonzima argued that, “Early grooming determines how well the child will adapt to the society.”
And he also noted that government needs to fund the Early Childhood Development Centers [ECD].
Last year, a survey was started to find out the state of pre-primary education in the country. Finalized this year, the survey is evidence of the poor state of pre-primary education.
There were1541 private schools, 211 public schools and 380 are jointly operated both privately and by government.
From the survey, it was found that most teachers operating in the schools were unqualified.
It was also found that Centre Experimental d’ Activite Scholaire, which currently is a pre-primary school was the only institution in the 1980’s tasked to train pre-primary teachers and make toys from local material.
“The institution was also turned into a pre-primary school but is also one of those in a poor state,” Niyonzima said.
The same survey found that there was no social security as a result, children were being raped, infants dumped after birth and many children were malnourished and couldn’t study.
They looked at children between the age group of 0-6.
During the survey, Niyonzima found that it was the children of the affluent that got the best pre-primary education giving the example of Kigali Parents School in Nyandungu in Kicukiro district with foreign teachers from countries like Uganda and Kenya.
From the findings he was able to draft the Early Childhood Development Policy.
Currently, he is finalizing a strategic plan to be attached to the policy and hopes by October this year will have been tabled by cabinet and ready for implementation.
The policy requires government to prioritize building of Early Childhood Development Centers [ECD] and urgently alleviate the plight faced by infants in pre-primary schools across the country.
He said that donors like UNICEF, save the children, are anxiously waiting to fund the construction of ECDs once the policy is endorsed.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO] definition of ECD is a comprehensive approach to policies and programmes for children from birth to eight years of age, their parents and care givers aimed at protecting the child the child’s rights to develop his or her full cognitive, emotional, social and physical potential.
Emphasizing the need for ECDs, Niyonzima divulged that by 2 years of age, 80 percent of a child’s brain is already established but this development will be distorted if not socially protected.
Brigette Izabiriza, national consultant on ECD who was part of the survey, disclosed that the government’s free education strategy doesn’t reach the pre-primary level.
“The education is not free, parents pay for toys and teachers,” she revealed.
However, she said policies for safeguarding children are in place but not implemented.
“The policies are there but they don’t reach out to infants,” she said.
She revealed that at the grass root, “there is child abuse, some infants are thrown away, others are deprived of their rights and this affects them mentally and emotionally in the upper stages of growth,” she said.
He also mentioned that Muhororo ECD pilot project collaboration between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health is making demonstrations across the country in pre-primary s chools.
On the issue of unqualified teachers, Niyozima said that the ministry of education is negotiating with Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) to operate a department that will help train pre-primary teachers.
Izabiriza said that a proper pre- primary level contributes to reducing the rate of drop outs and repetition of students.
In 2006 the rate of dropout was 16 percent and the repetition rate was 15 percent.
“We have set the target that by 2010 school dropouts will have been reduced to 5 percent and in 2015 the repetition to 8 percent,” she said.