Education & Jobs

Improving education

In Rwanda, primary education is now free and compulsory for six years from the age of seven.

Life skills

Life SkillsIn this video... Sonia interviews Martin. He works for the International Award Association which was set up to help young people achieve their potential, offering support and encouragement.

Since education became free, the number of children enrolled in school has risen dramatically, particularly among girls.

Children need to be in school

The Rwandan Ministry of Education reports that school enrolment rates stand at 97% of boys and 98% of girls.

However, poor families struggle to pay for extra costs such as for uniforms and school equipment. Therefore many children do not complete primary school and a third of young people (aged 15-24) are unable to read and write.

Fostering skills for the modern age

In 2008, Rwanda signed up to the ‘One Laptop Per Child’ (OLPC) programme. OLPC is a not-for-profit organisation which provides low-power and low-cost laptops for children aged six-12 years. The Rwandan government has ordered 110,000 OLPC XO laptops. Already 65,000 computers have been sent to more than 150 schools. See the video of the SOS children using their laptops.

For those able to attend secondary school, there are two three-year cycles – ‘Junior’ and ‘Senior Secondary’. In 2009, the government introduced free tuition for the first three years of secondary education; the president has also promised to extend free schooling to the Senior years. Only a small number of students go on to college or university.


  • Children at school in Rwanda
  • A child at school, Rwanda

English replaces French

The second language

French is now included as a second language on the curriculum.

During the colonial period, Rwanda came under the authority of Belgium. From 1923 onwards, French became the language used in schools, though of course most Rwandans speak Kinyarwanda as their mother-tongue.

In 2008, English replaced French as the main language of education. From primary level upwards, teachers now give lessons in English. This has meant considerable retraining. It has been a hard task for the profession, especially since the genocide left the country with a severe shortage of qualified teachers.

The change to English is aimed at helping Rwanda form closer links with its ‘Anglophone’ trading partners – Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Rwanda has also become a member of the British Commonwealth.

Smallholders and traders

Four-fifths of workers in Rwanda earn their living from agriculture. MostWorking the land in Rwandamanufacturing in the country is involved in processing the produce (e.g. coffee, tea) of the country’s many smallholdings.

Rwanda also has a large number of entrepreneurs and small cottage industries. Many Rwandans run their own businesses to supply the domestic market.

So for example, local suppliers provide materials (such as bricks, timber and tiles) for the construction industry. And handicrafts, such as baskets and textiles, provide a common way to earn a living.