By Elias Hakizimana.
Divine Umurerwa, 7, a P3 student at Burera primary school used to read children stories at school but could not guide herself to the next level of writing own story.
The P3 grade little girl said it was a dream to have own story written and shared to colleagues and she decided to read and ask for teacher guidance. Fortunately, Umurerwa was the winner of Andika Rwanda Competition 2019 at National level and her book is being read by other students countrywide.
“In my book, I wrote a poem called ‘Nawe Birakureba’ (It is also your task), my poem encourages children and everyone to have hygiene, last year, my book was among the best ones and what helped me is that I used to go in reading clubs,” she said.
“Once up on time when I was in classroom, I read a good story and it pleased me, I told my teacher that I got a good story, then he encouraged me to join the reading club to read more stories, my mother helps me to read at home and I call up on children to read quite often and try to write own stories.” Umurerwa added.
Eugenie Banzigiye, her mother, said that she used to help her to improve on her reading always when she comes from school. “She could tell me good stories in the book borrowed from the teacher, and a USAID Mureke Dusome Reading Club, I could ask her what she read in the book and assist her, I told her to borrow the book everyday and improve on her reading. I was happy to hear from her success and I will continue helping her by giving her even 20 minutes to read,” she said.
“It is not a task but a responsibility, for me it is easy to help children to read because I used to guide Christians in reading the bible, at home, after having read the bible for my children, I encourage them to read the books,” said Joseph Rutikanga, another parent from Burera District.
He said that some challenges include lack of enough text books to read at home. “when we help children to read, they reject fear and become comfortable to read in public. It also increases knowledge for them.” He added.
USAID funded projects are providing books in schools and community to respond to this need. Soma Umenye has provided more that 4 million books in classroom libraries while Mureke Dusome provided at least 150 books to more than 2500 children reading clubs created in the community.
Jacqueline Nyirabenda, the mother of four children from Burera District does not know to read, but she encourages her children to read. This mother dropped out of school when she was in P3. She said it was a lost opportunity and she does not want her children to grow illiterate.
Experts believe that a 10 percent increase in the share of students reaching basic literacy translates to a 0.3 percentage point higher annual growth rate Rwanda’s economic growth and development requires a literate population.
To combat illiteracy in Rwanda, led by MINEDUC, Soma Rwanda has launched a year long national reading campaign in Burera District. The company is super headed by USAID Soma Umenye and coordinated by MUREKE Dusome.
Marie Chantal Uwanyirigira, the Mayor of Burera District where the Reading Campaign was Officially launched appreciated the efforts of USAID-Soma Umenye with its partners to further capacities of residents in boosting early reading culture.
“We take this initiative as the opportunity to help our children read, we have committed as Burera citizens to give 15 minutes to our children to read every day and we encourage families, parents and their elder brothers and sisters to assist them in this journey,” Uwanyirigira said.
The Reading Campaign was held at Sozi Primary School in Burera District on February 5, 2020 and the same day Soma Umenye with the Ministry of Education also launched the Andika Rwanda Competition where winners of previous Andika Rwanda sessions were recognized.
Speaking amid the national reading campaign, Dr. Irénée Ndayambaje, Director General of Rwanda Education Board (REB) said that Andika Rwanda is a good occasion for Rwandan children to measure their ideas and knowledge as well as showcasing their capabilities to inform the community through writing.
USAID Soma Umenye has provided Burera District with 47,241 Kinyarwanda text books and 608 of them were given to Sozi primary school in P1-P3. The district was also facilitated with 589 school libraries including 7 libraries at Sozi Primary school. The P1 was given 89 story books, P2 with 53 story books and P3 with 51 books. The total number of story books given to Burera District is 38,557 and many of them were written by children through Andika Rwanda competition.
Leslie Marbury, USAID Mission Director believes that all children of Rwanda will be able to read and write without any hindrance in ten years ahead. She said that learning to lead is the top priority. “Children perform well, have better future and help Rwanda to grow, so, making time for reading benefits children and benefits Rwanda,” she noted.
USAID SOMA Umenye has provided 1,3 Million text books to the p1-p3 government and semi-government schools countrywide and other 1,4 Million text books are being put in schools’ libraries.
Addressing to parents and communities at Burera District, Samuel Murindwa, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education said: “Knowing to read and helping children to read can increase economic development but it can’t be possible when we do not start at early age,”
“15 minutes are not enough but when you give them and assist them during this 15-minute period, they will even read more than 15 minutes. We request you to show your role in this journey beyond the teachers’ responsibility it is also yours,” Murindwa said, adding that reading at early age will help children to adapt to other lessons such as Sciences and Technologies and; he believes that knowing to read at early age will help the government to reduce school dropouts.
He requested all education stakeholders to give time for reading to children and strive to make this more sustainable.
To make this year-long national reading campaign a success, USAID Soma Umenye has injected $85Million. Every year, the government of Rwanda invests 10 billion for books and teaching materials.
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