Rwanda has one of the highest primary school enrolment rates in Africa. In 2011, 94.3% of boys and 97.5% of girls were enrolled in primary school. These rates are largely attributable to the Nine Year Basic Education (NYBE) Programme, launched in 2006. This initiative abolished school fees for primary and lower secondary students and prompted investments to increase access and reduce drop out and repetition rates for all children.
In 2009, the Government accelerated this reform, by placing increased emphasis on schools’ capacity to absorb more students and by increasing spending on education in the national budget. UNICEF helped spur the push towards “child-friendly” quality education in 2004 through a pilot initiative to transform 80 schools into centres of learning excellence. The minimum quality and infrastructure standards, promoted by these child-friendly schools, have since been adopted by the Government as the gold standard for basic education in Rwanda.
However, key challenges remain related mainly to the quality of education:
Challenges of Quality: the need to address quality education throughout the system, in a resource-constrained context is a real challenge. Just half of primary 3 students meet (55%) curricular expectations in reading in their mother tongue; a majority do not meet curricular expectations in numeracy. There is general agreement in the Ministry of Education for the need to review the current education curriculum to ensure that it is contributing to skills development strategies that meet the needs of the future labour market.
In addition, while 79% of students complete primary school, 11% continue to drop out. Classrooms remain overcrowded with the teacher pupil ratio at 58:1. Further development of teacher capacities and training, in both English language and teaching methodology is urgently needed.
What is UNICEF doing?
As part of the UN in Rwanda, UNICEF supports the: