Nearly half of Rwandans can’t read or write, but the government foresees that illiteracy will be a thing of the past within seven years. The Rwandan government’s confidence comes from working closely with churches and organisations like the Bible Society which run literacy programmes across the country.
The Rwandan Minister of School Education, Dr. Mathias Harebamungu, acknowledged the Bible Society’s role in helping the government achieve its goals. Speaking at a recent literacy graduation ceremony, he said, “95 per cent of our citizens will be able to read and write by 2015. Our aim is that, in 2020, one hundred per cent will read, write, and count.” He praised the literacy graduates for their determination, and thanked church volunteers for their commitment to eradicating illiteracy.
Bible Society Australia supports the work of the Bible Society of Rwanda, which uses Bible-based ‘primers’ to introduce people to reading. Church leaders and other volunteers are trained to teach basic literacy within communities across nine Rwandan districts. Working with the Rwandan Ministry of Education, street children also are taught to read and write, opening the door to a brighter future.
A recent report by the Bible Society of Rwanda shows the extent of the work. In 2012, the Bible Society equipped 263 people to be trainers, who then trained 1,227 others to be literacy teachers. These volunteer teachers have since taught more than 15,000 adults – 10,338 women, and 5,015 men.
More than nine thousand of them have graduated or are on the way to achieving their goal, reading and writing for the first time in their lives. Bible Society Rwanda shares the government’s optimism, saying the figures show that literacy is clearly on the rise.
From cow herd to people’s shepherd
Forty-five year old Sebahore Evariste joined a literacy class in the Bugesera district in 2008. “When I started, my neighbours discouraged me because of my age. That was very hard for me, but I forced myself to carry on. I soon realised that the course was not complicated. After I learned to read and write, I started a small business, keeping cows. This helped me financially. I was then able to enrol in a Bible College, and soon I will be an evangelist and pastor.
“I am able to read everything in the Kinyarwanda language, and I have also started to learn English and French.
“Psalm 23:1 is one of my favourite Scripture verses: The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. In my life I have passed through hard situations, but I have seen that only in God is there peace and refuge for every problem.”
Learning the business of life
Nyirabagenzi Erevanie, in her thirties, is one of the 2012 literacy class graduates. “My biggest challenge was to be regular in attending classes. That’s why I took eleven months to complete the course. I was a businesswoman who did not know how to read or write! People naturally thought that as a business woman I would be literate. My life was full of lies.
“I also found it very difficult to calculate, and I used to give my customers the wrong figures. Nowadays my business is going well because my teacher also taught me how to count.
“I have now bought the Bible and use it every day for reading practice. I also participate in church activities. I like the parable of the ten virgins, and the one about the man giving his three servants bags of coins, both in Matthew 25.
“Every one has his or her own talent, but some of use do not use it to grow. These verses help me to work hard in life.”