The New Times (Kigali)

30 August 2012

Rwanda: Nation Wins Prestigious Commonwealth Education Award

One of Rwanda's home-grown initiatives, dubbed as the Nine Year Basic Education (9YBE) yesterday scooped the 2012 Commonwealth Education Good Practice Award.

Under the initiative, Rwandan children are offered free and compulsory education which consists of six years of primary education and the first three years of secondary school.

The award was presented to Emmanuel Muvunyi, the Deputy Director-General of the Rwanda Education Board, at the opening ceremony of the 18th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Mauritius, yesterday.

It was handed to him by Dr Ahmed Rashid Beebeejaun, the Mauritian Deputy Prime Minister.

The main rationale behind Rwanda's recognition, according to officials, was the role the 9YBE played in the acceleration of universal access to education.

It emerged winner out of 123 applications from 27 countries submitted for the third round of the awards.

9YBE was initiated in 2009 as a response to a heightened demand for secondary education in Rwanda after successfully implementing the Universal Education, intitiated six years earlier.

Rwanda's Minister of Education, Dr Vincent Biruta, noted that the reward is a big honor for Rwanda and acknowledgment for the part played by the Rwandan people in the implementation of the project.

"Rwanda has many best practices to offer, from which other countries can draw inspiration. This is a vote of confidence for Rwanda's development and progress in the field of education. With Rwanda being a new member of the Commonwealth, it's a vote of confidence in our nation's development and progress in the field of education," Biruta said.

Rwandans played an important role in the success of the initiative, mainly through efforts to construct classrooms to accommodate the programme at different primary schools in the country.

In Mauritius, Muvunyi presented how Rwanda managed to fast track the initiative before it was voted the best.

He demonstrated how best programme addressed the key criteria of relevance, efficiency and effectiveness, community participation, measurable results and replicable nature of the program therefore emerging the winner of the impressive award.

Rwanda's model gained recognition as one that could be exemplary to other countries on how to mobilize and utilize community resources in contexts of expanding access to education.

The country's best practices addressed at least three other action areas outlined in the competition guidelines which include elimination of gender disparities in education, improvement in quality of education and supporting education in difficult circumstances.

The noteworthy essentials in 'Rwanda's best practice' that most likely led to Rwanda's victory in this competition include, the innovative and unconventional approach to school construction and planning in which the communities took part; and the adoption of Rwanda's traditional values and systems such as "Umuganda" and "Imihigo".

These enhanced the level of community ownership in the schools.

The approach demonstrated cost-effectiveness, efficiency and sustainability thus leading to a rapid increase in enrollment, retention and completion rates at primary and secondary school levels.

The approach also set the basis for extending the programme to twelve years and more.

The Fast Tracking strategy was also supported by several development partners, including sector co-chairs DFID and UNICEF, with financial support also coming from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) - formerly known as FTI.

Infrastructure standards and guidelines were developed, based on the UNICEF Child Friendly School Model to ensure the quality of school construction during the fast tracking programme.

The Commonwealth Education Good Practice Awards are held every three years to celebrate and promote new and innovative education projects from across the Commonwealth.

Ten finalists presented their programmes to a panel of expert adjudicators before the ceremony.

The practices covered issues such as basic education; numeracy and literacy; climate change education; teacher training; inclusive education; youth; and teaching mother tongue at an early education stage.

According to the judges, the project addressed the pressing need for expansion of education after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda; it represented a qualitative shift in the dynamics of schooling and made a major contribution to national reconciliation.

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