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Rwanda: Background


The 1994 genocide decimated Rwanda's fragile economic base, severely impoverishing the population, particularly women, and eroded the country's human resource base. School infrastructure was destroyed, school activities stopped completely for a year, and thousands of teachers and children were killed or displaced. Many of the schools left standing are in poor condition, and teachers are often inadequately trained.
Barriers to girls’ education

  • Social-cultural issues. Girls are consistently discriminated against, and girls’ education continues to be viewed as less important than boys’. Girls are encouraged to marry at an early age, and they often take on household and income-generating responsibilities due to poverty or illnesses in the family, interrupting or ending their schooling.
  • Orphans and child-headed households. There are many orphaned children and a high proportion of child-headed households. Children in these households live in abject poverty and frequently drop out of school early.
  • Long distances to school. Children must often walk long distances to school, which is especially dangerous for girls.
  • Poor facilities. Primary schools are in very poor condition. Most schools have neither safe, potable water nor separate latrines for girls and boys, which affects girls’ attendance.
  • Costs of education. Although school fees have been eliminated, many children drop out of school due to other costs associated with their education, such as books and uniforms.
  • Quality, retention and learning achievement.  Quality of education has often been sacrificed in the quest to get as many children into school as possible. Gains in enrolment are sometimes countered by high dropout rates.

Key initiatives for girls’ education

The Girls’ Education Task Force (GETF) of the Ministry of Education, established in 2004 and working within the UNGEI framework, comprises the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC), Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF), DFID, UNICEF, FAWE, National Women Council, National Youth Council and Pro-Femmes.

  • GETF was formed to implement the Girls’ Education Action Plan.
  • Rwanda’s First Lady launched a 5-year school campaign in 2007 to promote girls’ education and increase girls’ enrolment and achievement in school.
  • The Ministry of Education has a budget specifically allocated for girls’ education.
  • A school curriculum focusing on life skills and a minimum quality package within the framework of Child-Friendly Schools have been developed.
  • Children’s peer support groups, by using participatory activities such as ‘Tuseme’ (speak out) clubs, have created a platform for girls and boys to discuss girls’ education issues and propose solutions.
  • The National Education Statistical Information System is a data collection and analysis system focused on providing data disaggregated by gender.
  • A ‘catch-up’ programme has been instituted to help vulnerable children and girls who were previously excluded from school.
  • A ‘Child-Friendly School’ model has been adopted nationally, and Rwanda is a member of the Child-Friendly Schools for Africa initiative.
  • Rwanda is one of the countries that achieved gender parity in primary education in 2004. It has the highest number of female parliamentarians in the world.


At the national level, key partners are the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC), Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion (MIGEPROF), FAWE, National Women Council, National Youth Council, Pro-Femmes, UK’s Department for International Development and UNICEF.

At district level, the decentralized structures of the Ministry of Education include Pro-Femmes, National Women Council and National Youth Council.

Girls’ Education within other national and international frameworks

The Girls’ Education Task Force (GETF) supports the vulnerability analysis and monitoring of the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy. GETF was influential in setting criteria for Fast Track Initiative assessment and subsequent endorsement.  As a result, indicators for achieving gender parity are also incorporated into the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF).

UNICEF is a lead agency for education in the one UN pilot project and has led development of the UNDAF education programme document.



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