Testing time in Rwanda after change of exam language

The Rwandan authorities want pupils to write their end-of-year exams in the local language, Kinyarwanda, instead of English.

The end of the year is exam time, when about 456,000 primary and high school students are tested before they can take the next steps on their education journey.

But this year, only days before the exams were due to start across the country, the board of education announced that all elementary school students must take the exams in Kinyarwanda. Although education policy stipulates that elementary pupils are to be taught in Kinyarwanda, most schools still teach in English, with Kinyarwanda as an optional subject, because teachers and parents believe English offers the best future prospects.

The change of policy was intended to harmonise teaching and exams as well as to promote children’s use of Kinyarwanda.

So the  Kinyarwanda-only ruling came as a shock to many. Additionally, the education board will now set the exams: previously this was done by the schools.

According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, elementary school pupils worldwide learn quicker and better when they are taught in their mother tongue. And some Rwandans support the idea of exams in Kinyarwanda, arguing that it’s a language that the children understand better. But the majority of parents do not seem convinced.

“It’s unfortunate that the students have to take exams in a language they are not taught in,” says Theophile Bucyana, a teacher at a school in the capital, Kigali. He thinks the decision-makers face a struggle in making the policy change stick..

“Sure, being taught in Kinyarwanda can improve the use of their mother tongue, but most parents associate English with giving their children more possibilities, and they feel proud when their children can express themselves in a foreign language,” he says. “It’s an attitude that will be difficult to change.”

/Jean-Pierre Bucyensenge, Rwanda

The postcards written by journalists in our network are published on the Blankspot Project website.

25 years since the Rwanda genocide: He married the daughter of the man who killed his family

Article published in Göteborgsposten
6 April 2019
By Jean Pierre Bucyensenge

Rwanda. John Giranza was brutally beaten, with broken bones and a cracked head. He lost 38 members of his family and was hospitalised for six years. ”It’s a miracle I survived”, he says.
Today, he is married to the daughter of one of the murderers.

It was in April 1994 that all hell broke loose in Rwanda. The Hutu militia, called Interhamwe, armed themselves with machetes and other weapons and then started killing people all over the country, with the support of police and military. Interahamwe was driven by an extremist ideology whose flames had been fanned by officials in the Hutu led government. The UN estimate that around one million people were killed during the 100 days of the genocide between april and june 1994.

”The perpetrators were mainly people who we knew and lived side by side with” says John Giraneza, who was 20 years old at the time of the Genocide.

Full article (in Swedish) here:

Blind football commentator

Article published in Perspektiv
29 October 2015
Av Didier Bikorimana

Rwanda.  A big part of what you can hear on the radio in Rwanda is about sport, it could be a report from the English Premier League, or a discussion about who the world’s greatest football player is. You may be listening toLéonidas Ndayisaba’s voice. He’s 35 years old, an appreciated sports commentator – and he’s blind.

“I’ve always enjoyed listening to football on the radio. It’s probably about the atmosphere and the commentators’ passion and choice of words”, he says.

Léonidas uses Braille in his work and listens a lot to the radio himself. During the live reports of big football games he usually works with a seeing colleague who comments the games. Léonidas jumps in with statistics, player profiles, and other details that help making the reports fuller and more interesting.

In 2008, the National University of Rwanda started accepting students with low vision for the first time in 45 years. It was in line with the country’s policy of “education for all”.