A delegation led by Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer at Dubai Cares, visited Rwanda as part of a monitoring and evaluation trip to witness the progress of its two programs launched in 2017. The first program of the UAE-based global philanthropic organization, part of Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, is focused on improving the quality of Early Childhood Education (ECE), while the second is working towards empowering youth.
Dubai Cares’ Early Childhood Education (ECE) program titled “Strengthening School Readiness in Rwanda” is being implemented in partnership with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in Nyamasheke, one of the largest and poorest districts in the country. The program is preparing 2,520 children between the ages of 3 and 6-years for a formal school environment. The AED 5,279,731 (USD 1,437,248) program aims to create 30 ECE model centers that can serve as models of best practice in ECE learning. The program’s holistic design is also intended to enhance the school environment through rehabilitation of classrooms; improve access to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) facilities in schools; engage parents and community members in the ECE system; provide training for ECE teachers in the local teacher training college; as well as integrate ECE governance and leadership into the education system. Furthermore, the program has a particular focus on extending access to vulnerable children through building capacity to care for children with Special Education Needs and training teachers and leaders on inclusivity.
Speaking about the importance of this program, Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer at Dubai Cares said: “There is a significant need for Early Childhood Education in Rwanda, and we are proud that Dubai Cares is playing a pivotal role to bridge the gap in this area, in-line with the Ministry of Education’s strategy. Our program is equipping pre-primary school children with school readiness skills to help achieve smooth transition to primary school. Through this intervention, which is composed of a combination of activities including teachers training and capacity building, we are tackling the challenges that prevent pre-primary school children from getting their basic education. The program also incorporates a unique element that aims to integrate children with special education needs into mainstream education, as we believe it is a key step towards ensuring their future inclusivity into society.”
The delegation also met with H.E. Hazza Mohammed Al-Qahtani, the UAE's first Ambassador to Rwanda who stressed on the key role Dubai Cares is playing to boost the education sector in the country, adding that “This year marks the ‘Year of Zayed’, the UAE's founding father, whose wise leadership continues to inspire us with his giving and encouragement to lend a helping hand to developing countries, as we hope to follow in his charitable path of helping others. As part of this vision, Rwanda and the UAE have fostered strong and exceptional bilateral ties that have continued to grow and prosper. The UAE looks forward to further strengthening its cooperation with Rwanda in different areas, and we are proud that Dubai Cares’ programs here are bolstering the education sector in the country which is also in-line with the UAE’s Foreign Aid Policy.”
Papa Diouf, Country Director of VSO Rwanda said: “With less than 15% pre-primary school enrolment in Rwanda, VSO teamed up with Dubai Cares and invested in developing an inclusive Early Childhood Education (ECE) model in Nyamasheke district. At the inception of the project only 1,687 children were being enrolled from 30 model schools. However, last year the number tripled surpassing the original target. Given that enrolment has only improved slightly to 17.5% in Rwanda, there is a huge opportunity to scale up this model across the country and enable more children with disabilities, and especially children in remote rural areas to achieve school readiness skills and get for a lifetime of learning.”
The delegation also moved to Kigali to monitor the progress of Dubai Cares’ program titled “Learning and Innovation Partnership” which is being implemented in partnership with “Educate!”. The AED 3,673,500 (USD 1 million) program aims to transform secondary education by introducing practical and skills-based training in schools to pave the way for young students for future leadership roles, and empower them to start a business while still at school. The program is also supporting the government’s national education policy and curriculum reform, which aims to increase opportunities for Rwandan youth to succeed in schooling and in the workplace, as well as empowering teachers to implement the government reforms. The program is set to benefit 16,000 young Rwandans in 175 schools across 11 districts in the country.
Commenting on the impact this program has had so far on youth, Al Gurg said: “Youth in Rwanda are currently facing enormous skills and capacity gaps as they are ill-equipped for the demands of the labor market, especially given that most youth who graduate from secondary school end up working in the informal sector. Through our program, we are empowering Rwandan youth with the necessary skills to gain meaningful employment opportunities, while at the same time supporting the government with its education policy reform, ensuring that entrepreneurship skills are embedded into the national curriculum. We are delighted to witness the enthusiasm and optimism among Rwandan youth, who are demonstrating tremendous confidence and eagerness to contribute to their nation’s success story.”
Boris Bulayev, Executive Director, Educate! said: "Educate! was thrilled to welcome Tariq Al Gurg and members of the Dubai Cares team to observe our program in Rwanda. Through our partnership with Dubai Cares, we are supporting the Rwandan government to equip youth across the country with the skills to get jobs, start businesses, and become leaders in their communities. We are excited to see teachers adopting innovative, skills-based teaching methods in the classroom and to see the creative businesses and community projects that students are starting. We are deeply grateful for the partnership of Dubai Cares as we seek to prepare youth in Rwanda and across Africa with the skills to succeed in today’s economy.”
The delegation also met with Honorable Dr. Eugene Mutimura, Minister of Education, Honorable Isaac Munyakazi, Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Schools, Dr. Usta Kaitesi, Deputy CEO of Rwanda Governance Board, Honorable Kamali Aime Fabien, Mayor of Nyamasheke District, as well as other senior officials and dignitaries.
Despite being one of the poorest countries in the world with 44% of the population living below the poverty line, Rwanda has made impressive strides towards economic growth and development. It is the most densely populated country in Africa with half of its citizens under the age of 18 years. In the past few years, the education system in Rwanda has gone through an impressive period of growth, especially in terms of access to education. The country still faces many challenges such as the onerous task of double-shift teaching for the primary school teachers and the language transition from French to English for grades 4 and above. Pre-primary education has seen rapid growth since 2011. The net enrolment rate at the pre-primary level increased from 10.1% in 2011 to 17.5% in 2016. The number of students enrolled in lower and upper secondary schools increased from 486,437 to 553,739 between 2011 and 2016, reflecting an increase of 13% over the past five years. Additionally, net attendance by disabled children increased from 9.7% in 2011 to 15.5% in 2015.