Helping Children In Rwanda Stay In School

October 2020

What do the experts think...

By providing communities with clean drinking water, children no longer have to spend hours collecting water or firewood. Parents are able to encourage their children to stay in school and gain an education. 

(A short) history of education in Rwanda

In 1994, Rwanda suffered one of the world’s most horrific genocides since WWII. Civil war broke out between the two dominant cultural groups, resulting in the massacring of approximately 800,000 Rwandans. 

Education systems during this period were non-existent, as students and teachers fled the country, whilst their infrastructure was destroyed. It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of Rwandan schools were non-functional in 1994, while more than half of the school teachers were either killed or displaced. 

Education in Rwanda now

Over the past decade, Rwanda’s education system has gone through a remarkable period of growth, especially in terms of access. The Rwandan government has begun to recognise that education is a critical investment for the future growth and development of the country. 

As a result of the Rwandan government offering free education until year 9, the primary school enrolment rate has risen to 95% (2018)*. Enrolment rates in secondary and higher education however are still low. The secondary school enrolment rate is currently at 40.9% (2018)*, whilst the higher education enrolment rate is 6.7% (2018)*. 

Whilst progress of education in Rwanda is undeniable, it is far from perfect.

School dropout rates in Rwanda

Dropout rates are one of the major hurdles the Rwandan education system is facing. There are a number of adversities that contribute to the significant school dropout rates in Rwanda, these include; household costs, parental interest and domestic chores. 

Gender is a contributing factor that leads to school drop out. The socio-cultural forces affect boys and girls differently because of societal gendered expectations. Girls are more likely to dropout than boys due to the traditional belief that girls are better at household chores than boys. Traditionally, when resources were not adequately supplied, the little that was available were used for men and boys. Whilst boys may also dropout because their family circumstances require them to work, additional reasons for girls to drop out of school include early marriage and pregnancy. 

Household poverty is another driving force behind early school dropout. Poor households cannot easily afford regular meals and children cannot study well without enough quantity and quality of food. Such children go to school hungry and cannot participate actively. As a result, they resort to dropping out of their studies. Subsequently some activities compete with children's schooling because they provide ‘hope for food’. Children are recruited in the workforce or as house maids to acquire resources for the family. 

Despite the government's efforts to provide free basic education, some public schools do not allow learners to take their studies if they have not paid non-tuition charges. When this challenge is connected with other issues like parents' ignorance and personal hardship, the most likely option is for the child to drop out. 

Safe community water supply supports children's education 

The Safe Community Water Supply project restores and repairs existing boreholes to provide clean drinking water to Rwandan communities. This removes the need for Rwandans to boil water over inefficient wood-fuelled fires or travel long distances to get clean drinking water. 

This project goes beyond providing safe drinking water for communities. By providing communities with clean drinking water, children no longer have to spend hours collecting water or firewood. As there is no longer a need for children to collect drinking water, parents are able to encourage their children to stay in school and gain an education. 

Safe drinking water within a community means that families no longer spend their limited resources and time on the collection of drinking water. With these spared resources they can put them towards non-tuition schooling fees to ensure their child is able to gain an education. With more free time, parents can become more involved with their child's education, encouraging them to continue with schooling.

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