Jubilation as Over 600 Adults Get Literacy Certificates in Nyaruguru District, Rwanda

graduation ceremonyThis article originally appeared in Ubwenge.

It was just euphoric – troops dancing and play performances − as Wednesday saw 614 people awarded literacy certificates in Nyaruguru district, Southern Rwanda, following a six-month writing-and-reading teaching session under the auspices of CHF (Cooperative Housing Foundation) International and the Association of the Pantecotists of Rwanda, dubbed ADEPR.

A total of 1,200 people – made up mainly of elderly and those who had dropped out of schools – initially started the course, taking math (simple calculations of how to count), reading and writing as the main subjects. And, at the end of the course, only 728 students were still holding and sat for the exam, out of which 614 people emerged as the winners.

One such winner is 20-year-old Jean Damascène Nyirimana, from Mata sector of Nyaruguru district, who walked away with a literacy certificate.

“I can write my name into my mobile phone. But I couldn’t own a mobile phone before because I couldn’t even manage to write my name in it”, said Nyirimana, who dropped out of primary school when he was still in year two.

An equally upbeat account for Gérardine Nyiramabindo, 35, a resident of Ruramba sector.

“I used to trade but my business always went bankrupt because if someone could buy a soap, I could falsely give them extra money as a change”, Nyiramabindo recalls.

“I was even unable to read my name on my ID card. But that’s no more”, she added.

According to Reverend Jean Sibomana, legal representative of ADEPR, his church’s programme – hand in hand with CHF International – is a contribution to Rwanda’s continued development efforts and matches the country’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) about increasing literacy levels among Rwandans.

Reverend Sibomana, however, challenged Nyaruguru district grassroots leaders to get right the figures of illiterate people to facilitate the church in their volunteer teaching work – which targets people irrespective of their sex, age and religion differences.

Nyaruguru district’s Deputy Mayor in charge of Social Affairs, Angélique Nireberaho, heeded Reverend Sibomana’s call, ensuring that it is already part of the district’s 2012-2013 performance contracts to establish figures of illiterate people across the district in a bid to foster their education.

“I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to our partners [CHF International and ADEPR] for their unmatched contribution in reducing illiteracy levels”, Deputy Mayor Nireberaho added.

To date, slightly over 1,500 people are taking courses in 50 literacy centers scattered across Nyaruguru district. CHF International and ADEPR hope they will have added 1,000 more students to the current intake by the end of the year.

ADEPR started providing literacy courses in 1999 and nearly 402,000 people across Rwanda have been awarded literacy certificates since then. Thousands of volunteer Pantecotists – mainly retired primary school teachers – have been up to the task throughout the country.

On September 6, the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) awarded ADEPR an international prize for its unparalleled national adult literacy programme over the years.