Costasie Nyiraminani was born 20 years ago into a humble family in the rural Mbazi sector in Huye District, Southern Province. Like any other child, she dreamt of going to school and couldn't wait to put on the blue cotton dress.
Unfortunately, that time never came as she was kept by her parents at home to help in house chores, including cooking, fetching water and working in the family field. Nyiraminani says her family was to poor to educate her.
"Had I gone to school like the rest, maybe I might have become a teacher, a medical doctor or someone important in the community," she adds. Last year, at 19, Nyiraminani joined an adult literacy centre in her home sector with an aim of gaining writing, reading and counting skills.
After a year of study, she passed and was awarded a certificate. Today, she says she is proud that she can read and write. "I always felt embarrassed whenever my age-mates discussed what they had learnt at school," Nyiraminani recalls.
Nyiraminani says the skills she acquired have helped her improve her living conditions. In fact, after the training, she underwent a tailoring course and later joined hands with other people to start a dress-making workshop. "If I had not learnt how to read, I wouldn't have been able to train in tailoring and I would have remained poverty-stricken," Nyiraminani says.
Reducing illiteracy rates:
Nyiraminani is just one of the many adults who have benefited from special literacy skills training programme as the country intensifies its efforts to eradicate illiteracy. According to the 2010/2011 Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV), literacy rate in the country stands at about 70 per cent.
There are over 5,000 literacy centres spread across the country which offer reading courses to adults, according to Esperence Muzinganyi, the officer in charge of adult literacy at the Ministry of Education The centres, she said have greatly contributed to reducing the rates of illiteracy in the country. Muzinganyi told The New Times that over 140,000 people graduated from various centres across the country in 2012.
Last year, a report by the African Economist magazine ranked Rwanda among top 20 countries in Africa that are actively promoting adult literacy programmes. Rwanda was ranked second in East Africa and 17th in Africa. The government's efforts in fighting illiteracy have been supplemented by several non-governmental organisations and churches.
One such organisation, Global Communities, has been channelling funds through the Usaid-funded Ejo Heza project to various actors who run literacy centres. John Ames, the Chief of Party for Usaid Ejo Heza, says their intervention in the area of adult literacy was dictated by the need to uplift people's living conditions. "We are trying to promote new agricultural techniques, health and nutrition and we found that literacy is a key component in these activities," Ames says.
Learners say the training offers them a chance to improve their living conditions and managerial skills. Some of them also benefit from extra life-skills ranging from technical training to assistance in starting informal savings and credit groups.
Emmanuel Ntwari, a father of three who benefited from the literacy training programme, says he always felt he missed something until he decided to enrol for the course. He says he was forced to live as a herder for most of his life.
"One thing I am sure of is that the literacy training has improved my judgement," Ntwari says. Beata Nyirabarushigorora, an instructor who has been volunteering for the past four years, says adult literacy is giving learners a second chance.
"After undergoing literacy trainings, a number of our trainees have formed savings groups and they are improving their livelihoods," Nyirabarushigorora says. "Seeing people prosper makes us proud and keeps us volunteering," Nyirabarushigorora says.