The Pentecostal churches in Rwanda are giving hope to elderly illiterate to at least know how to read and write.
Along the way to Gitega sector in Nyarugenege district, you see elderly men and women with books during evening hours rushing for classroom lessons. This prompted me one time to go with them and see where they were attending their lessons.
Mathias Nzabahimana, a pastor of a Pentecostal church (A.D.P.R) in Gitega sector in Nyarugenege district said that the idea of teaching the illiterate people came about in 1999 after the genocide.
Nzabahimana revealed that the idea came after most of the illiterate Christians would not develop faith in God as a result of not reading the bible.
“We realized most of the congregation was not really improving in faith due to being illiterate as they couldn’t read and write, only hearing is not enough for a true Christian,” said Nzabahimana.
Nzabahimana who is in charge of training the teachers who teach the illiterate said that the church leaders had to sit down and discuss the issue and organized free teaching lessons for the illiterate persons.
“We set a period of six months for the illiterate which is enough for them to know how to read and write,” said Nzabahimana, adding that the learners are given certificates after they have completed.
He added that the teachings also include government programmes and hygiene.
This movement has given a smile to those who did not have any chance of education during their childhood as many had been ventured into agriculture and some as a result of home violence and past bad politics.
A married Aisha Mukakarara, 50, with three children who is now learning how to read and write at the A.D.P.R church in Gitega, says that she now has a reason to smile since she can now read words on posters on the roadside and the bible.
Mukakarara said that since her childhood she had had the zeal to study but due to her father having many wives and children there was no door for her education.
“I had always wanted to study all my life but unfortunately due to less care of my parents and my father having many wives did not help matters,” said Mukakarara.
Not until she heard about free education in learning how to write and read in her fifties in her church. “I was very happy about the programme at church and I thought it was my chance not to miss the opportunity,” Mukakarara said.
However, though she is in her 6 months training, her sight is an obstacle as she cannot see well when reading attributing it to her age. “I can’t see well especially when I’m reading a sentence in a book, but I think it’s because I’m aged,” says Mukakarara.
Another classmate of Mukakarara, Thaddeus Nzirabatinyi, a 56-year-old and a father of five children all studying said he used to rear cattle during the time that he was supposed to go to school.
“During our early age, our parents didn’t know about the importance of education, so they forced us to go rear cattle instead,” he said.
Nzirabatinyi regrets not having early education because he takes long to understand what he is being taught by his teacher. “When you’re old you can’t understand the lessons as fast as children, so this has been my problem,” he said.
He added that what pains him most is his children teasing him as they usually correct him in his daily home work instead of him correcting them.
However, Nzirabatinyi further said that education doesn’t have age limit, adding that he will try as possible as he could to push forward.
Joyce Mukamana, a teacher of the adults at the church and who once taught in primary school said that teaching adults is different from teaching pupils or students.
“Here you have to be closer to them in order to encourage them so that they understand quickly,” she said, adding that if any of her students makes a mistake, she does not tell them of their mistakes or condemn them in class.
Mukamana said one of the challenges she faces while in the course of teaching the adults is that most of them are not consistent. “Some miss lessons because of family issues,” she said.
Pastor Nzabahimana said that his church has so far registered 136 adults who have been awarded certificates.
The Pastor added that the church further encourages the former students to go for catering and tailoring lessons so that they create their own jobs and develop themselves.