The Government will next fiscal year begin paying kindergarten teachers in public schools, the parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Technology, Culture and Youth heard yesterday.
Addressing the committee, the State Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, Isaac Munyakazi, said the decision is in line with the Government's strategic plan to increase the number of children attending preschool.
Rwanda's fiscal year starts in July and ends in June.
The minister said that, presently, teachers in public preschools only receive bonuses, which vary depending on the capacity of parents and communities in which they operate.
The plan, he said, is to increase the number of preschool-going children from the current 24 per cent of children aged between three and six years to at least 45 per cent in the next seven years.
Official statistics indicate that, in 2016, there were 2,757 public preschool facilities countrywide, up from 1,369 in 2010.
Some of these learning centres are run by parents under the Early Child Development programme, which is coordinated by the Ministry of Gender and Family Planning.
Munyakazi told the MPs that the numbers would increase gradually.
"When things are not working very well on our side, there is usually a reason, which is normally related to finances. That is the reason we continue to lag behind in terms of having all the three classes required for nursery school and qualified teachers. We, however, have a roadmap and we are working on addressing it," he said.
Meanwhile, Munyakazi told the MPs that Government has since broadened the curriculum for adult literacy classes beyond reading and writing, to also include English and general knowledge.
"This programme concerns those aged 16 and above. Originally, the idea was to teach people how to read and write but we have since taken another step forward and included languages like English, and general knowledge lessons for those who have already learnt how to read and write," Munyakazi said.
He said in the national qualification framework that was approved this year, this type of education has three levels.
The first level is for those undertaking lessons in reading and writing, the second includes lessons in foreign languages and general knowledge, while the third level constitutes adult learners who can sit primary leaving examinations as a pathway to secondary school.
However, Munyakazi said there were still challenges related to shortage of classrooms for the programmes, but added that district authorities often help provide space in formal schools, places of worship, and district facilities.
MP Petronille Mukandekezi commended the Governmen's decision to start paying preschool teachers, saying lack of a fixed salary affects the quality of lessons offered at this stage of learning.
"Preschool is very significant because it is the base of one's education, therefore adding these teachers on the payroll is a great deal," she said. "I am glad that a solution has been found. Parents had to contribute a monetary token of appreciation but I think this move by the Government will transform the entire system."
MP Edda Mukabagwiza also applauded the move but appealed to the minister to urgently work on the issue of overcrowding in existing preschools.
"I am happy to hear that these teachers will now be paid. I am, however, concerned about the issue of overcrowding. In places such as Nyakinama, a teacher takes care of over 80 children. In some areas, we found children studying from churches. You can work with community players to improve the situation," she said.
Munyakazi admitted that the issue of overcrowding was a general one all over the country and largely blamed the situation on the past governments.
"In the past, the number of children in class used to be small not because people didn't want to study but because someone used to deny them that opportunity. The current government provided full access to education to everyone and this made many people want to study yet the infrastructure wasn't enough," he said.
"That's the challenge we have today but, gradually, and with support from our partners, we are fixing it."
Asked by The New Times how many public preschool teachers the Government was looking to add to the payroll, Munyakazi said the ministry was yet to ascertain the number.
He was also non-committal when asked how much they were likely to pay a preschool teacher.