Prioritising English is a move that will benefit Rwandans

A few months down the road after government’s new policy of adopting English as the medium of education was officially instituted, complaints are still coming from the public, as many still believe that French has been completely dropped.

A few months down the road after government’s new policy of adopting English as the medium of education was officially instituted, complaints are still coming from the public, as many still believe that French has been completely dropped.

Repeatedly, different government officials have explained the core truth about the benefits of prioritizing English over French and by now, Rwandans should be in position to understand the advantages.

In a press conference that was held last week at Telecom House, Kacyiru, a number of journalists also expressed resistance to the new policy tabling their worries of dropping the French language.

In response to these grievances, the Minister of Education, Daphrose Gahakwa, clarified the reasons behind government’s new policy to make English the medium of education.

As she addressed the press conference, the State Minister emphasised that adoption of the English language does not necessarily mean that the French language has been dropped completely.

“French will be studied as a subject. We are just prioritising English and it is in the benefit of the general public,” she explained.

As a matter of fact, drafting of a strategic plan to have the policy fully implemented is under course and according to Gahakwa, specialists have already been hired to take on the study in her ministry.

“The plan to have English as a medium of education is expected to begin by the next academic year, and be fully integrated in all private and public schools by 2011,” said the Minister. 

Available statistics already indicate that so far 4,000 teachers have undertaken English language courses while another 6,000 will soon follow.

According to a survey around Kigali, most of our children are ready to take up the challenge of learning English. For some it has already been a part of what they have been studying and taking it up might not be as complicated as others stipulate.

“I speak French fluently and I believe that with time I can equally speak fluent English,” Melissa Shema of Saint Patrick school told The New Times.

Darlene Uwase of Green Hills Academy stresses that she is bi-lingual and emphasis on English would only make her a better speaker in Public (She hopes to become a Member of Parliament one day).

The State Minister for Education in charge of Primary and Secondary Education, Theoneste Mutsindashyaka, said that currently the country has about 50,000 teachers and that the remaining 40,000 teachers will undergo the same English courses under a crash-program.

Mutsindashyaka said that the adoption of English would make education cheaper in the country.

“The cost of French textbooks is much higher than that of English books,” said Mutsindashyaka. He also criticised those who are rejecting the policy.

Both Ministers of Education did not specify the amount the government is planning to spend on training teachers and purchasing new English textbooks.

Gahakwa said that the money would be drawn from the Ministry’s budget while Mutsindashyaka said that a big chunk would be spent on purchasing books.

“Government is currently partnering with the British Council and private firms to acquire English textbooks,” Mutsindashyaka said.

Rwanda’s ascension to the East African Community necessitates that Rwandans be in position to communicate with members in her sister states of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.

Not only will the language strengthen Rwanda’s close trading ties with other East African nations but also with South Africa, which has contributed significantly to investment of luxury hotels and shopping malls, thus driving an economic boom in Rwanda.

The former trade and industry minister, Vincent Karega, told The New Times on 12th October that the country is looking beyond the Francophone world.

“French is spoken only in France, some parts of west Africa, parts of Canada and Switzerland,” he said. “English has emerged as a backbone for growth and development not only in the region but around the globe,” he emphasized.

With great emphasis on the English language therefore, Rwandans will become more competitive globally. Besides EAC, Rwanda has been planning to join the commonwealth 53-member states’ club since 2003.

As an English speaking country, if admitted, Rwanda will economically benefit as a member state since commonwealth constitutes over 40 percent of the World Trade organization, making it very influential in global trade.

Rwanda will soon be a more fully functional member of this economic bloc with English language and not the French language.