Iris Iradukunda, a senior three student of Gihundwe Secondary School (Group Escolere) can’t wait to grasp all the English vocabularies; her determination to learn the language is not for the intention of passing the exam but to get fluent in English just like her Kigali classmates.
Speaking English is a dream come true for rural students.
“This is a miracle, finally we shall stop being mute when we go to Kigali on long vacation,” says Iradukunda.
English is a quite new phenomenon in Iradukunda’s school.
“Practice makes perfect, besides I would like to show the whole world that I am good at languages. I love giving my English a try,” says Abdul Gatare, a Senior Two student.
Where English gets the fame
“English is a language for town dwellers and civilized people,” says Damascene Shyaka, in Primary six.
Like Shyaka, rural-based students find English a must-know because it helps them identify with town students. With English as a common language, students will not need to attend the most expensive schools just to learn English.
English is also a ‘cool’ language for rural teenagers.
“It’s the hip-hop language. It’s the way to go,” says Danger, an upcoming artist who is in Senior Four.
As teenagers, wear those big jeans and blingbling; greet with shoulders, referring to each other as, “man,” English slogans always crown it all. Teens are simply imitating their favourite American Hip-hop legends. Switching from French to English is a blessing as far as accomplishing teens’ quest to live like celebrities is concerned.
The perception of English among village scholars goes as far as having an East African mind.
“We are in the East African community where English and Swahili is inevitable. The earlier the better,” says Fred Hirwa, a senior six holiday maker.
Meanwhile, French is also blamed for being such a complicated language.
“I started school in a francophone system, and now after S.6, I can barely speak good French. Many of us can only communicate but can’t compete, when it comes to French as a language,” says Hirwa.
The hiccups, as English catches up
For every blessing, there is challenge.
“Many of our teachers have a French background. They end up teaching us the wrong pronunciation of English words or even bad accents,” says Hirwa.
Changing from French to English is not a walk over. It’s a whole new beginning. Many students complain of scoring lower marks, as they adapt to the changes.
Much as there are ups and downs, English is worth it because students in rural schools will greatly benefit from it.
“It’s the hip-hop language. It’s the way to go.”