Two students reading in the classroom. link :

Rwanda has currently been receiving praise for its development in different sectors of governance. One can not deny the progress since many of them can be seen by the eye, in infrastructure, new roads, new buildings have been constructed, in healthcare, 99% of the population has health insurance. It is undeniable that efforts have been invested in different areas of the whole governing ecosystem but in some areas, a lot more needs to be done to make to have effective results. One of the areas which need to capture the attention of policymakers and different stakeholders in Education. After the genocide, the country started a long and hard journey of rebuilding itself from scratch, this was not an easy thing for leaders at that time but with the help of different development strategies like Vision 2020, change began to happen. The education system is set for 16 years in total, that is to say, 6 years for primary school, 3 years in ordinary level secondary school, 3 years of advanced level secondary school and four years of university to obtain a bachelor’s degree. To make education accessible, more schools were built and the government introduced the policy of universal education where every child is intended to be in school at the age of seven in addition to that the government offers scholarships to students who performed well in the high school leaving examination. (“Nine Year Basic Education Fast Track Strategies – The Commonwealth Education Hub”, 2020) stated that the introduction of universal primary education in Rwanda in 2003 led to a remarkable increase in the number of children completing six years of primary from 2008 onwards. This created a heightened demand for secondary education. Meeting this demand was prioritized by the Government of Rwanda. In 2009, a ‘fast track’ approach was initiated to provide an additional three years of lower secondary to achieve nine years of basic education. The objectives of the Nine Year Basic Education program were: ensuring equitable access to nine years of basic education for all children, and providing them with quality education and skills necessary to achieve their full potential and at the same time reducing repetition and drop-out rates 

As a Rwandan who did my education in the country both public and private schools, I of all people know that the education offered in those institutions is far from being the same. From one teacher who teaches all the subjects in public schools to every subject having its teacher in private school, one can imagine the type of education they get. To collaborate this (Atieno, 2019) stated that there is a need to teach learners as a whole, and the specialization will give you quality, but if generalization is done, and given that each person has a weak side, it will mean that we will be generalizing all the weak part of this teacher to be transferred to all learners. In both schools, I attended and even in my household none of them ever taught me the importance of reading as a hobby, I got lucky that later on I discovered my passion for books and acted on it. However, not many young students have the luck nor have parents who talk to them about reading, (Ruterana, 2012) stated that In Rwanda, many parents distance themselves from their children’s education as long as they pay school fees. A question that is popping out recently is whether in Rwanda there is a reading culture or not, and many people who participate in this conversation say that there is no reading culture, a survey by SaveTheChildren, 2016 observed that literacy practices outside of school in Rwanda are scarce. Though parents, headteachers, SGAC members, and even children generally know about the benefits of literacy and believe in the importance of reading, children spend little time reading outside of school, and the majority of parents do not engage in their children’s reading development. One could ask why there is no reading culture and what are the consequences is that having on the whole Rwandan community. 


This is a question I have been asking myself a lot of time so I decided to do a small research in summer 2019 with a group of 15 high school students,1 teacher, 1bookstore owner and 1 book publisher in education on why there is no reading culture in the country. Most of the people I interviewed had almost the same reasons they think contributes to this issue, those being inaccessibility of quality and relatable books( books written by local authors on local issues children might face in their daily lives), tight schools schedules, no libraries, societal dynamics that do not favor reading. The society we live in as Rwandans don’t favor reading, a practical example that happened to me when I was in high school and classmates saw me reading they would ask why I am doing it and when I answered that I enjoyed it, they would be like “you trying to be white. I am LIKE “WHAATTT!!! That’s Preposterous” (a new word I had learned while reading). Imagine that mistake of labeling reading as a white thing was made by students who attend a good school considered one of the best in the country, now how about the parent in the northern province who had never set foot in class when he or she sees her child reading. I am not speaking for all households in Rwanda because I believe there are a few parents who teach their children to love reading but from my own experience growing up, I can not recall a time when I saw my parents reading books for fun.

It is a pity that in Rwanda we only have one public library, and what about the people in provinces? How are they going to access books in their communities? The biggest number of books I found in the library while checking it out is about things which are nor relatable to children like snow, some fruits like apples which are not very common because they are not grown locally. These are some of the things that contributed to the lack of reading culture in our country. The saddest thing is that children from public schools suffer more than those from private one because most of them come from low-income families, therefore, they do not have a support system to encourage them to read, (SaveTheChildren, 2016) argued that the limited access and availability of storybooks, a perceived lack of time for parents to support reading, and lack of social support at the community level are the causes of poor reading culture 

I like to think that reading a book is seeing the world in someone’s eyes. The consequences of not reading do not end on the individual level but go beyond the community level. Good things first, there are a lot of benefits of reading one gains knowledge, stimulates the brain and it is a stress reduction activity, research conducted by (Whitten & Labby, 2016)  stated that Reading helps students think critically and improves reading comprehension skills, which is beneficial in every subject area measured in this study. However, the benefits of pleasure reading do not end in the classroom. Students take the skills they have honed through reading into adulthood and, in turn, into the workforce and society. As I mentioned above, children who suffer the most are those who attend public primary school, because they do not have enough teachers who help them in their education journey and encourage them to be involved in educative extracurricular activities like reading. The picture below is of a girl in my class where I facilitate a reading session. She took about 40 minutes to read a small storybook, moreover, she and other students from her class kept asking me the meaning of words like “please, but, answer” which are words a grade five student should be able to read and understand.

Belyse reading her storybook.


SOMA MWANA is a social organization which is aiming at enhancing the reading culture by leveraging on the benefits of books and extracurricular activities.

Support the organization by donating money, books and other resources like reading venues. You can also come to volunteer with us every Thursday at different public primary schools we work within Kigali.