The 1994 genocide in Rwanda devastated the country’s economy and its education sector – the backbone of economic and social development. Since overcoming the tragedy, the government has focused on education as a means of reducing poverty and restarting the country’s growth. In recent years, it has increased the enrollment rates in primary education to 97% and has expanded the number of universities from just one in 1994 to 18. However, with such impressive advances, building the supporting infrastructure to manage education remained a challenge for educators and government officials.
To address this, in 2007 Agile Learning Company – a Microsoft partner – worked with the Rwanda Ministry of Education to develop and implement the Education Management Information System (EMIS). Whereas before schools received questionnaires to fill out by hand about the number of students, grades, etc, which were then collected physically in each district and brought to the ministry for the annual report, the EMIS platform digitizes this process by allowing teachers and administrators to input directly into a database. Other stored data includes information on the need for teachers and infrastructure, which serve to ensure that resources are well distributed according to local requirements. The program has been launched to provide the country’s 5,000 schools with EMIS and relevant training by 2011.
Microsoft is providing additional technical expertise and in-kind support for the EMIS project, including Unlimited Potential curriculum and training, while local schools are responsible for implementing the policies. James Curry, the CEO of Agile Learning Company, explains that, “the idea behind is it push down all the decision-making to the lower levels so that the Ministry of Education is basically monitoring and evaluating the policies that they set. The districts, the sectors and the schools are responsible for implementing those policies.”
Romain Murenzi, ICT Minister for Rwanda, stresses the importance of building the country’s capacity for effectively managing the education system. “In Rwanda we now have more than 2.6 million students – a quarter of the population – in school. This is very important,” he says. “This has a huge impact on peace. Education becomes the catalyst for peace.”