For the last 16 years, Rwanda has made tremendous progress in increasing access to education, but as it very often happens, when you have rapid increase in access, the quality doesn’t follow necessarily. Indeed quality depends on having well trained, qualified and motivated teachers which is the current challenge due to the big numbers needed. It also depends on availing to teachers and students sufficient teaching aids (good curriculum, good and abundant textbooks, laboratories, etc.) as well as good infrastructure which again are not easy to provide whilst the number of schools and students increasing tremendously and rapidly.
Below is a brief on the current progress:
2.1. Access to Pre-Primary Education
• Before 1994, pre-primary education (Nursery) was quasi nonexistent;
• Since 1994 there have been private initiatives by individuals, communities and civil society organization to create nursery schools. At the end of 2008 we had 2132 pre-primary schools with a pupil population of about 145,000.
• Government has responded by:
• Developing a curriculum for pre-primary education;
• Drafting a policy for pre-primary education;
• Mobilizing local administration; communities; civil society especially faith-based organizations; private sector to involve themselves in creating and running pre-primary schools;
Note: The Government intends to pay a lot of attention to the age group of 3-6 years following demonstrated evidence from Pedagogues and psychologists that the 3-6 year age is the best year to initiate long lasting learning processes that to this level of education notably by training specialized teachers.
2.2. Access to Primary Education
In 1994, Rwanda had 942,729 pupils in primary school for a Rwandan population of 7.4 Million, at the end of 2008 this increased to 2,190,270 in primary school for an estimated Rwandan population of 9.3 Million. This means that between 1994 and 2008 the number of children in primary school grew by 132% (has more than doubled) while the population grew by 25.7%!
This was achieved because massive construction primary schools and massive training of teachers; - introduction of Capitation Grant and removal of school fees (education is free at primary school in public and private Government aided schools); – introduction of school feeding; - Grassroots mobilization by local leaders, etc.
2.3. Access to Secondary Education:
In 1994, Rwanda had 50,100 students in secondary school for an estimated Rwandan population of 7.4 Million whereas at the end of 2008 the number increased to 288,036 students for an estimated Rwandan population of Rwandan population of 9.3 Million.
This means that between 1994 and 2008 the number of children in Secondary schools grew by 474% (has almost sextupled) while the population grew by 25.7%, this was achieved because of construction of many secondary schools both public and private, Introduction of Capitation Grant, etc.
In 2008, the Secondary School population was about 13.2% of the primary school population. There can’t be a better proof of the lack of access to Secondary education.
• Massive introduction of 9 Year Basic Education as promised by His Excellency Paul Kagame during his election campaign. Every child entering primary school should at least finish 9 years of free education (6 years of primary and 3 years of secondary).
• Rwanda will need to expand access to upper second level and the TVET to avoid shifting the bottleneck that existed at the end of Primary to the end of lower secondary level.
In 2009 Rwanda launched a massive campaign for 9-Year Basic Education (9-YBE) program and as a result
• In January 2009, 765 schools (242 former ESI + 523 new) opened a 9-YBE program and received 126,000 S1 students whereas the existing secondary schools received about 27,000 S1 students (a 367% increase!).
• This was possible because of the introduction of double shift in primary schools (availing classrooms) and specialization of teachers (availing teachers).
• This program has allowed us to address the following problems:
• Access to secondary education for almost all primary leaving students (even those who had been unable before);
• Gender balance in secondary education
• Better distribution of Secondary schools
2.4. Access to Higher Education
In 1994, we had about 4,000 students in our higher learning institutions (National University, Institute for Agriculture and Animal Resources – ISAE, Adventist University of Central Africa, Grand Seminary) for an estimated Rwandan population of 7.4 Million. In 2008 we had 45,122 students in our HLIs for an estimated Rwandan population of 9.3 Million. This means that the number of students at tertiary level has been multiplied by more than 11 times.
However, even with these impressive developments the tertiary sector faces significant challenges if it is to make its full contribution to the national development agenda. The higher education sector is relatively small. As a 10% graduate population is generally considered to represent the minimum acceptable level to hope for sustainable economic growth and development, Rwanda is extremely badly placed in international competitive terms. In fact, the 10% graduate population target suggests 960,000 graduates are needed (for the current estimated population of 9.6 million). It is however estimated that the current population of university graduates is less than 100,000. Therefore, even if we were to maintain our freeze our population size as it is today, with the current enrolment capacity of our higher learning institutions of about 15,000 students per year, it would take us more that 60 years to achieve the suggested minimum acceptable level of graduate population to ensure sustainable economic growth and development of our country!
We therefore need to rapidly expand access to Higher education. This comes with enormous challenges in terms of providing qualified academic staff, adequate infrastructure and equipment (laboratories, libraries, ICT access, etc.).
Currently, with the rapid expansion of Higher Education, we face a critical shortage of qualified lecturers.
We have a situation with many of our Higher Learning Institutions whereby Deans and Heads of Departments are Masters Degree holders and because an entire department is run by staffs that are not qualified to a PhD level (even if they may have some visiting lecturers with PhDs). Because of the scarcity of qualified lecturers, institutions tend to steal lecturers from one other by offering them slightly better salaries or excessively borrow lecturers from each other.
This excessive borrowing of lecturers has a detrimental consequence on research. Lecturers tends to run from university to university as visiting lecturers in order to increase their revenues and have no time to carry out research or adequately coach and supervise students doing their research for their final projects. Many HLIs resort to hiring expatriates. In some of our HLIs more than 75% of lecturers with PhDs are expatriates. This is an untenable solution because it is expensive.
The Government of Rwanda has been investing in training junior lecturers at Masters and PhDs level to fill the above mentioned gaps. We intend to progressively start Masters training at our HLIs (mainly at NUR and KIST) whereas we will still need for some time train our lecturers at PhD level in foreign universities. Though training at Masters and PhD levels are also needed by Rwandans working in Institutions other than HLIs, the Government has decided to give priority to HLIs in accessing scholarship opportunities.
Health and Development
The Government of Rwanda is committed to improving the Rwandan population’s health situation by strengthening the quality of service delivered and providing access to treatment through universal health insurance coverage (Mutuelles de Santé).
To enhance public health services, the Ministry of Health is undertaking deep reforms which will address the major traditional problems of health as well as the new challenges posed by the pandemic of HIV/AIDS.
To respond to the Rwandan Government’s ambitious plan for the country’s sustainable development as detailed in its 2020 Vision, Rwanda strongly believes that quality of care must continuously be a national priority. For this to happen, we need to focus on human resources development, building and sustaining ‘Mutuelles de Santé’ and reinforcing decentralization within the health sector.
A shortage of human resources in the health sector is one of the biggest challenges facing the government. In order to fill the gaps, the government has invested significant resources in pre-service training institutes. In the meantime, concentrating on the middle level cadre, the government established the Kigali Health Institute, which is charged principally with training nurses and technicians for the health sector.
The government allocation of resources to health has increased in recent years. As a share of the national budget, health has increased to 12%, up from 4.2% in 1996. 60% of government resources are decentralized into the districts. The government has started a social insurance scheme to make services available to the communities. This scheme mostly serves the poor, and has been very successful. It will serve as a model for other insurance programmes. Donor inputs account for well over 70% of health sector funding. The government believes that this is not sustainable and is seeking long-term, sustainable solutions.
Health sector successes
There have been some significant improvements in the health sector. The government campaign for HIV/AIDS has yielded a downward trend in the prevalence of the disease. The current prevalence is 3%.
The Government is very concerned about population growth. At the highest levels, the government is advocating for limiting family size. This is felt to depend on many factors, including family traditions, cultural ties, and shared responsibilities between men and women.