The New Times (Kigali)

28 October 2008

Rwanda: Minister Explains Choice of English

Gasabo — The Minister of Education, Daphrose Gahakwa has clarified the reasons behind the government's new policy to make English the medium of education.

Addressing a press conference, the Minister said that the drafting of a strategic plan to have the policy fully implemented is under course in her ministry and that specialists have been hired to take on the study.

"The plan to have English as a medium of education is expected to begin by the next academic year, and be fully integrated in all private and public schools by 2011," said Gahakwa.

During the news conference, some journalists expressed resistance to the new policy, tabling their worries of dropping the French language.

In her response to the grievances, Gahakwa said that the adoption of the English language as a medium of education does not necessarily mean that the French language has been dropped completely.

"French will be studied as a subject. It is just prioritising English and it is in the benefit of the general public," she explained.

The Education Minister said that she expects no failure in the policy since there will be continuous follow up on students and teachers on how the implementation is going on.

Available statistics indicate that so far 4,000 teachers have undertaken English language courses while another 6,000 will soon follow.

The State Minister for Education in charge of Primary and Secondary Education, Theoneste Mutsindashyaka, said that currently the country has about 50,000 teachers and that the remaining 40,000 teachers will undergo the same English courses under a crash-program.

Mutsindashyaka said that the adoption of English would make education cheaper in the country.

"The cost of French textbooks is much higher than that of English books," said Mutsindashyaka. He also criticised those who are rejecting the policy.

"What is the complication in this? The question instead should be why did the government delay in coming up with this policy!" he argued.

The State Minister also strongly denied relating the issue with the ill relations between Rwanda and France. "This Issue should not be politicised at any point," he said.

Both Ministers of Education did not specify the amount the government is planning to spend on training teachers and purchasing new English textbooks.

Gahakwa said that the money will be drawn from the Ministry's budget while Mutsindashyaka said that a big chunk would be spent on purchasing books.

"Government is currently partnering with the British Council and private firms to acquire English textbooks," Mutsindashyaka said.

The news conference was also attended by the Minister of Information, Louise Mushikiwabo, who said that she had done extensive research on the use of the French language.

"It is known globally that French is losing value; there are about 3,000 publications from different scholars proving how the French language is losing value, why should we proceed with a language that would cost us a lot," asked Mushikiwabo.

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