Quality education is a top priority for many countries - and certainly for parents all across the world. A recent survey by United Nations Development Program (UNDP) indicated that 39% of people in Rwanda are living under the poverty line. Mwumvirangoma Jean De Dieux, a farmer and father of five in Burera district in Northern Rwanda wants a better life for his children. “The reason why I send my children to school is to prepare them to manage their lives in the future. I want them to acquire knowledge for a better Rwanda.” Explains Jean De Dieux.
One of his sons, eleven-year-old Izadufasha Etienne was inspired by his neighbors to join school. "The reason why I like going to school is because, I used to see other children going and would envy them. I told my parents that I also wanted to go to school and it was then I started to study. When I grow up, I want to become a policemen."
Etienne attends 5th grade at the Jean de la Mennais public school in Burera district, which has about 1,250 students ranging from pre-primary to upper secondary level. The school is funded by the government, which has made education for all Rwandan children one of its top priorities.
Dhar Subrata, a Global Partnership for Education (GPE) representative is happy with the performance of the government. “The Rwandan government is extremely committed to the development of the education system. They have developed an education sector strategic plan, which is comprehensive, and results based,” he explains.
But while Rwanda has significantly increased its own education spending over the past decade, it still needs support from international donors to ensure quality education for all Rwandan children. 67 percent of Rwandan children complete primary school and 75 percent of them transition to secondary school. About 80% of Rwandan youth are literate. The Global Partnership for Education or GPE is one of the development partners in the country supporting education. Rwanda has been a GPE partner country since 2006 and has received about US$ 200,000 in education grants. Last year, the Global Partnership launched a new innovative funding model with a specific results-based focus.
Under the government's leadership all development partners prepared a comprehensive educations sector plan - a blueprint for what needs to be done based on needs and priorities. 70% of GPE's funding goes toward this plan. The government then selected some areas where it would measure itself against in order to get the additional 30% results-based funding.
Dr. Papias Musafiri, the Rwanda’s Minister of Education is very positive on this support. "The new funding model will help us get even better results, it's a result-based and there are three elements in it. The first element is to measure the learning outcomes. The second aspect is to focus on data, having the quality-desegregated data so that they can inform us. The new funding model is focusing on pre-primary education because we believe that early preparation of kids increases the level of numeracy and literacy in kids." He explains
The pre-school at the Jean de la Mennais School is currently primarily funded by parents who see the value in early childhood education. The government is expected to start covering more pre-schools this year. GPE is providing grants to the government, which will help expand pre-primary education particularly in the disadvantaged districts.
Vicent Mbarukuze – a parent and PTA lead is very happy with the performance of his children. "As parents we have benefited from Jean de la Mennais School. For example last year, my children were in pre-school but this year they have started primary school. The most important benefit I see is that they perform very well and are among the best in their class. We give credit to the preparation they got at the pre- school,” he explains.
The additional 30% results-based funding from GPE is an incentive for the government to focus more on early childhood education including on training teachers for these crucial early years of education. At the Kirambo teacher-training center in Burera, young students are being trained as teachers for early childhood education.
Claudine Nishimwe, is one of the trainees “The teachers help us to know how we can prepare well the way of teaching the children in pre-school. Other courses that we study in early childhood education include psychology, mathematics, social study, French, English among others,” She explains.
Change doesn’t happen overnight and more work and more funding will be necessary until every Rwandan child has access to early childhood education laying the groundwork for a successful school career. But Rwanda is on the right track and has many international donor partners ready to support.