Why Did Rwanda Abruptly Change the Language in Schools—Again?

Primary school students in a classroom in Eastern Province, Rwanda, 2012 (photo by Tim Williams).
Primary school students in a classroom in Eastern Province, Rwanda, 2012 (photo by Tim Williams).

Children in Rwanda finally started heading back to school last fall, after months of learning from home. It was a bit of bright news for the country, given that schools had been closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. But now, many students are facing a brand-new challenge: Having to learn in an unfamiliar language. Rwanda’s government has begun implementing a controversial language change that requires all primary schools to instruct their students in English, rather than in Kinyarwanda, the national language spoken by nearly everyone in the country. However, only 38 percent of the primary school teachers who […]

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