Public Schools in Rwanda

Public Schools in Rwanda

Having spent a year as a volunteer teacher at a secondary school on the outskirts of Kigali, I felt a quick note on the public education system wouldn’t hurt. Obviously, there are no expat children enrolled in Rwandan public schools, but for expats wanting to volunteer as teachers in Rwanda, this might provide some useful background information.

Primary education in Rwanda is free (but – and this is a big but – students still have to pay for school uniforms, materiel, and transportation).  Most primary schools decided to keep Kinyarwanda as the language of instruction for the first three years, before switching to English for the remaining three years.  Originally, the government wanted all schools – primary and secondary – to be taught in English ‘over-night’, but has since settled with the fact that more time is needed for this linguistic transition. Some secondary schools still teach in French and Kinyarwanda, but on paper all schools are Anglophone.

Many public secondary schools in Rwanda are boarding schools, where a big proportion of the student body lives at school during the academic year. The size of schools varies, but normally there are 50-70 students in each class. The upper classes usually have fewer students, typically due to the fact that students are unable to pass exams or pay school fees.

The Rwandan secondary school system is divided into two levels: Ordinary Level (O Level), and Advanced Level (A Level), each level consisting of three years. As in Western school systems, the grade levels are numbered; in Rwanda the grades in secondary school go from Senior 1 (S1) to Senior 6 (S6). Primary school grades are numbered from P1 to P6.

Students in O Level all take the same classes. Certain schools offer subjects such as art, philosophy and psychology, but more commonly the subjects taught are math, languages, computer science, natural sciences (sometimes with practical lab), history, economics, and PE. A recent push for more entrepreneurship in schools, has made room for this subject as well – usually at the expense of computer science, which truth be told isn’t that big of a deal seeing as there rarely are working computers available to more than a few students anyway.

After completing the three years of O Level, the student goes on to A Level, where there are several academic ‘lines’ of which to choose from. Each line consists of three main subjects, for example PCB (Physics, Chemistry, Biology) or HEG (History, Economics, Geography), and the student is placed in a line according to his/hers scores from O Level. Though the three main courses take up much of the academic workload, the students continue with other subjects as well. I will say this much though: A PCB student is not likely to learn an awful lot of geography, and a HEG student will most likely do poorly in physics (though compared to American students, they’re probably light years ahead anyway…)

The Rwandan school year starts in January, with final exams in November.  The year is divided into trimesters, with no more than three-week vacation in between. I say ‘no more than’ because there really is no way of knowing. The exact dates of holidays are kind of decided spontaneously in this country, or at least not made known until the school year has started. Good way of getting pleasant surprises though!

One thing should also be said about school materials and equipment available to the students and teachers.  At the school I worked, the classrooms were made out of concrete with rows of old wooden benches.  In the bigger classes three students would squeeze together, though usually it would be two to a desk.  None of my students had their own textbooks, though a small number of books were provided by the government.  The idea of the textbooks, however, is for the teacher to read and then convey to the students.  In general, this translates to a lot of chalk-and-talk, where the teacher writes summaries and notes on the board, and the students copy.  Concepts like critical thinking and creative problem-solving are known to a few, but rarely exercised. With more funds being put into public education, however – as well as teacher training and creative workshops – I’m sure that class-room learning will take on the form of comprehend and implement, rather than copy and memorize.

Okay, so this didn’t end up being quite as ‘quick’ as I originally envisioned.  Oh well, no harm done, I guess.  If you scrambled your way through this whole thing, then you might actually be passionate about education, in which case… may I suggest you contact a public school to ask about sponsoring children with limited funds!? Most schools have a list over students who have asked for sponsors, and all you need to do is pick a child and pay to the administration! Or maybe you have books to donate o schools with libraries!? Yeay! Or hey, apply to a volunteer program (such as WorldTeach) so you can come here and teach!

Hehe… haven’t you learned yet, that any lecture on issues regarding development always ends with a desperate cry for help…? Well, not that desperate I guess… after all, it’s only education we’re talking about here – the only REAL solution to end ignorance and poverty which, in turn, will lead to political stability and steady economic growth, which will lead to increased health care and quality of life, which in turn, my friend, will lead to eternal world peace… and pools of sour candy, free for anyone to swim in with their mouths open. Oh wait! That was just me dreaming.

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43 thoughts on “Public Schools in Rwanda”

  1. Hi Inga,

    I read your account of education in Rwanda with great interest. Good for you for taking this on. Your thoughtful and honest account was refreshing.

    Regards,

    C.

  2. Hello! I teach history in Vermont, and my students, after learning about the Rwandan genocide, are very energized and are talking about doing a fundraising project to benefit people their own age in Rwanda. Would you be able to provide suggestions about a school (or schools) in need of supplies/furniture/funds for uniforms etc. and contact information? Thanks very much!

    Kelly

  3. hello.i teach English in Kenya and would like to come and teach in Rwanda.can you update me where i can get a vacancy in a secondary school possibly in Kigali?

  4. Hey all. I am Rwandan, but I am currently studying in the United States. I am so thankful that there are people like you that think about people in need of help. Inga, I think that teaching English is such a great thing you are doing. I hope God blesses you and provides you with what you need in a country that is after all…not too bad, right? 🙂
    As for Dun, let me know if you need some information about a secondary school in Rwanda. I would get you information to get there.
    Hey Kelly, would you say thank you to those kids in Vermont that want to do something about my country? I know an orphanage that is in need of help. Kids over there are aged from less than a year to youth finishing high school. I have the contacts and could get you the contacts so you could talk to them. God bless each and every one of you.

    1. Hi my name is Monica Smith I plane to move to Kigali in June.
      I have a 13 year old daughter name Ronisha Mondaine,and I need help putting her in school;how can I get help?

      1. hello
        lam kalisa musa i want to come to rwanda and work as a volunteer for three month
        tell me more

        monica smith call me i tell u more +256793008104

  5. Hi ?
    can you please tell me where i can find Pure Computer Science in Rwanda , i mean in A level (S4,S5,S6) thanks !

  6. Hello
    I am very interested in your comments. Last year i travelled to Rwanda and payed the school fees for a young boy. Now he finished school and would like to go on on Level A1. The School he proposed to do is much to expensive for my possibilities’ (Around 500 dollar for 1 year). Can you help me to know how much studies in public education at level 1A may cost?

    Thank you very much!!!!

    1. Inga tells me that $500 for one year is pretty standard for a quality school in Kigali. The fees can go as low as $100 but that will be outside of Kigali and for a school of lesser quality.

    2. I had the same experience after travel to Rwanda and meeting a young man who was member of a dance troop. I provided tuition for two terms ( there were three per year) but, once I retired to care for my mother, my income drop precluded my financial support. I have received emails detailing family illness and death – at one point, a supposed representative from a hospital aggressively demanded I pay a hospital bill. The requests for financial support are ongoing which I have had to decline. My emails to the Rwandan government have been unanswered. Proceed with caution!

      1. Gail, I had the same experience on a recent trip to Rwanda! The young man, also a member of a dance group, called himself John Paul Habimana. I would appreciate being able to compare notes with you. I would like to help, but fear this is a young man is trying to scam me because of my interest in education and helping others. My email is bogeoklein@yahoo.com

  7. hi may you sent me full information am akenyan and i want to come to teach maths from april to september during my long holiday 2012. am a university student at kenyatta universityu ,kenya.taking bachelar of education maths/business.
    also,i would like to know if the school can catar for accommodation and other missleniuos expenses.thanks in advance.

  8. Emmanuel Bimenyimana

    Hi,
    I ‘d like to know where can I find A seconday school for Computer Science in Rwanda for my Child who is in S4 in Burundi.

    Thanks

  9. Hello,am a Ugandan and i did a course in primary teaching.i would like to come and do teaching in Rwanda.please help me and send me more information on my e-mail [philliptumusiime@gmail.com] thanks.i shall be grade if my request is worked upon.

  10. Thanks for being so nice and taking the time to revise the education of my motherland. i really like your brief writing

  11. This is so great. I and some friends are looking at starting after school programs mostly to help children learn a few life skills and basic English language as most of them can not speak any other word after I AM FINE THANK YOU TEACHER not caring whether you are a teacher or not. And to do that we need volunteers to help reach our goal of making these children better citizens. Write to me on: nellie2001rw@yahoo.com.

  12. Am planning on being in Kigali January and February of 2015 working in the secondary schools with teachers. I have my masters in English and 37 years of teaching experience behind me. Your article was wonderful to read and offered more information than I have been able to find online elsewhere. We will be fundraising here in NH and hope to find schools here that will assist in sponsoring students there.

  13. This is an interesting read, we are really looking for volunteer teachers to teach English in a primary school in Kabuga Kigali. Also early childhood or kindergarten/preschool/elementary school teachers to teach or train our teachers and model lessons! Reach us on mcs.kabuga@gmail.com

  14. I am also writing a project on giving an opportunity to few kids from deep rural areas schools to benefit from learning perfect English from great English teachers.I need help from Foreign English teachers working in Rwanda especially those who know the situation outside KIGALI!!!!For any help here is my email umuriane92@gmail.com
    Thank you good People!!!

  15. Hi Inga
    Thanks for your detailed information, am looking for a good private boarding catholic schools,” O -level” with good passing status for my boys with reasonable school fees, could you please suggest few names?
    Regards

    David

  16. Hi there am from Uganda and am a professional teacher of English and literature. I would like to get information about public schools in Rwanda and am also interested in coming to offer my service there If any school is interested, please let me know thank you,I will be grateful if my request is considered

  17. actually i like Rwanda education systems so much now i would like to know whether some one with a bachelor degree in business education can qualify to teach entrepreneurship education

  18. Hello Inga.

    Thanks for the study made. You really made it and I believe by then that was the real picture of both primary and secondary education in Rwanda. However, the status quo by then depicted most education situations of my my mother, Africa! So, I may say it wasn’t big deal since we black men maybe believe in such. This however, can’t make not remember about the situation went through.

    Inga, I guess you already in your cocoa plantation as you said you wished but I feel like you get some little time, pay us a visit again and do some more comparison study. However, to me through there is no concrete study in have real made, there is a big stride that has been made by all stakeholders right away from top to bottom concerning the critical points you had highlighted.

    I am by proffession, a teacher too, a Rwandan, Uganda born and I have been in the Rwandan education system right away from 2009 up-to-date.

    Thanks Inga!

  19. yes!first of all thank u so much,i would like to ask you for somewhere the learners of computer science can work stage in kigali city!!

  20. Hello, We are the Brain Teasers Rwanda running the National Spelling Bee for English, Kinyarwanda and French in Primary and Secondary schools and we consider all schools i.e. public,private and int’l schools. We run Primary in May and Secondary in June. We do this as an education support activity to promote the languages in schools. We still run it within Kigali but soon we need to extend to other provinces but before we extend we need to first secure strong partners to work with because it requires enough support to go to villages. We welcome new partners on board that are willing to support the project to empower the young ones. You may write to us: brainteasersrwanda@gmail.com or +250781545678 (Richard, Executive Director).

  21. I really like Rwandan education syst
    em. Am a kenya a teacher by profession teaching Biology/Agriculture
    I would like to teach in Rwandan schools. Please somebody assist me to get a vacancy.
    I will appreciate
    At the same time I want to persue my masters in Rwanda.
    Am willing to send my documents and CV.
    THANK YOU IN ADVANCE
    EMAIL ADDRESS: mbundejoseph@yahoo.com

  22. Hi there ! I am a qualified teacher from South African . I have a very keen interest in teaching outside of my country. I have a lot of respect and admiration for the people of Rwanda and the strides they have made in overcoming their difficult past. I specialize in dramatic arts and history. I also write and direct plays. The prospect of imparting knowledge and skills in a different country is very attractive .Your advice in this regard will be highly appreciated.

  23. Hi am clement a Ugandan_born Kenyan currently in Kenya trained in agriculture extension with education, so can i get job in Rwanda please?

  24. Josephine A.Opondo

    Hallo,I am a trained teacher from Kenya teaching Mathematics and Science for many years and also in management.I feel a great urge to give my services to another African country and am in love with Rwanda please advise me how to go about this.

  25. hi,,am ken a trained primary school teacher from kenya and seeking a job vacancy in your school,,if possible,contact me through 0708396137

  26. hey there. am samuel sentongo from uganda. i would like to share my experience in teaching at secondary school level.i have much respect and i have had alot about the great nation of rwanda.

  27. Harrison Webuye Juma

    This is Harrison. W. Juma, Age 26. I am a qualified teacher from Kenya . I am looking forward in teaching outside my country. Iam a gentleman full of respect. I specialize in arts(Kiswahili christian religious education) I have skills in music such traditional music, I also offer guidance and counseling to students . I am a very flexible person who works with or without supervision under any circumstances, The urge of imparting knowledge and skills in students in different parts of the world is is very important and that’s why I’m out here looking forward in such opportunities .Your advice in this regard will be highly appreciated.

  28. Hello my name is hirwa jean Im a citizen and resident of Rwanda , from your comments I can see many people
    Need to be informed about industry of Rwandan education. So I’m here to help you to know our higher basic education and to address you the top performers in any field of study in thousand hills country. so if you need information about schools in our country ,call or WhatsApp me on below number.
    +250784844462

    Note: I don’t charge any fee to let my country be known # Visit Rwanda# peaceful country

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