A project that seeks to improve Kinyarwanda reading skills for children in formative years was launched, yesterday, targeting to reach one million children over the next four years.
The project is funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to a tune of Rwf68 billion.
According to officials, the Early Grade Reading Project has three complementary activities, including "Mureke Dusome," loosely translated as "Let's Read," which engages parents, communities and literacy champions to help children embrace the culture of reading outside school.
The second activity, "Soma Umenye" (Read and Know), will train teachers and provide extra reading materials to schools. It will also strengthen the capacity of the Rwanda Education Board and advocate for policies that support reading, according to officials.
The Teacher Mentorship Community of Practice programme is an online platform for teachers to access teaching materials and forums, and to take teaching certification courses online.
According to the US Ambassador to Rwanda, Erica Barks-Ruggles, the US government's partnership in support of Kinyarwanda literacy is built upon evidence that literacy in the first language children speak and understand is the foundation for their success in school.
"Early grade literacy is the foundation of all learning. And here in Rwanda, learning to read in Kinyarwanda first is especially important," the envoy explained.
Barks-Ruggles added that it is the reason they worked closely with the Ministry of Education, Rwanda Education Board and other partners to ensure that every child can read in Kinyarwanda with confidence by the end of Primary Three.
"Our partnership with the Government of Rwanda is key to achieving this literacy goal and the goals of Rwanda's Vision 2020. We are working with the Rwandan government to find local solutions for improving children's reading ability," she said.
Barks-Ruggles said studies have shown that a 10 per cent increase in the share of students reaching basic literacy translates to a 0.3 percentage point bump in the annual growth rate for a given country.
The future workforce of Rwanda, she added, depends on the foundational skills that its children are learning today.
"Research shows that children learn to read faster and better in the first language they speak and understand. In addition, from a previous literacy initiative, we've learnt that students who have strong reading skills in Kinyarwanda are more likely to be strong readers in English in P4 and beyond," the envoy said.
According to the State Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, Isaac Munyakazi, the project is a global and noble cause as it will help the country develop and achieve its target of becoming a knowledge based economy in the future.
"We are ready to support the project since it is in line with the Government's commitment to provide quality education. Learning to read Kinyarwanda (at an early age) is critical to achieve development goals. When the children are able to learn Kinyarwanda, they are able to learn English and other subjects," he said.
Teachers and parents have welcomed the project, saying if it is well implemented, it will boost the reading culture in the country and improve education as a whole.
"It is good when children are supported at a tender age, and as a parent, I will do my best to help my kids read while at home to make sure they grow with that culture," said Pauline Mukabarisa, a mother of four from Kinyinya Sector in Kigali's Gasabo District.
The project will run under the theme; "Dusome dutere imbere" (Reading together, Growing together).