Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti
They sat under a tree, hurdled in a group, book pages making flapping sounds, thanks to the breeze that morning.
When we arrived at Karenge in Rwamagana District, it was business as usual. Some children were busy in classrooms while about thirty others sat under the tree in the nearby Nyabubare Cell also reading.
A man and a woman sat beside them on the mat helping the young ones read from Kinyarwanda books, a normal routine where at least twice a week, children are taken outdoors and taught how to read in their local language.
Experts urgue that it is scientifically proven that children can do better in various subjects when they learn how to read in their native language.
Seraphine Nyirabagenzi is one of the reading facilitators at the school. She says that this routine has yielded positive results.
“As parents, we joined hands with schools to train our children how to read early enough. We have got books and other materials and there have been positive changes since we started,” she says.
Nyirabagenzi is contributuing to the Early Grade Reading project; ‘Mureke Dusome’,a community project started by the ministry of education in partnership with USAID’s strategy to establish and support a culture of reading throughout the country.
The programme builds school-community partnerships and family engagement in children’s education.
It is being implemented by Save the Children throughout the country benefiting over one million children, according to the officials.
It is part of the three USAID funded early grade reading programmes.Others are ‘Itegure Gusoma’ which is a pre-primary programme and ‘Soma Umenye’ which targets P1 to P3 children.
All the projects work together to ensure that children are reading in Kinyarwanda in and out of school.
‘Mureke Dusome’ also works to increase the quality and quantity of Kinyarwanda children’s books and increase opportunities for students to read outside of school.
Nyirabagenzi, a mother of two says that since the project started, parents in the area have seen a positive impact from it.
“We teach twice a week, engaging children between three and nine years. We teach them how to read in Kinyarwanda and ensure that they learn something new every time we meet. This really helps because they are likely to learn other languages easily and since we encourage them to take books home, parents are happy that the children are not idle,” she says.
She added that despite not having any higher education qualification as reading trainer, she has acquired training that helps her with other colleagues to perform better.
According to the Headmaster of GS Karenge; Jean Bidugu, thanks to the programmes; children are prepared from the pre-school level and can be able to read all Kinyarwanda materials as early as in Primary Three.
“Children are prepared from nursery to get ready to read. Thanks to this programme, we have received over 500 books that are going to significantly improve the reading culture here. Besides teachers, parents and head teachers were trained and we hope that a lot will change,” he said.
The programme should sustain
The US Ambassador to Rwanda, Peter Vrooman, who officially handed over the first-edition copy of a new Primary One level textbook, said USAID and its partners support the culture of reading Kinyarwanda books adding that it’s important for young children to study in a native language since this helps them to grasp English and other languages a lot easier.
The first-edition copy of a new P1 level textbook created by the Rwanda Education Board, in partnership with USAID, will be distributed to all public school students countrywide.
He also commended the initiative by parents to promote a reading culture in their communities.
“Parents are very important in this exercise because it is them that will encourage children to pick up books and read. It is important that at home, school and in general life for children to know how to read and this will help Rwanda to become a knowledge based country,” he added
The Minister of Education Dr. Eugene Mutimura, hailed the programmes for complementing each other expressing optimism that they will prepare the children to become future leaders.
“If children are trained to read, it helps them know more and keeps them busy and away from unnecessary distractions. We will keep working with our partners to ensure the programme becomes successful and sustainable,” he said.
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