Girls as young as seven became pregnant after they were sexually abused, it has emerged.
A survey conducted by the Rwanda Education Board (REB) in 2011 revealed that 640 underage girls were constantly abused. Education experts and parents could however not explain the high numbers.
Acknowledging that the crime was a major problem in the country, REB officials said many of the girls who were defiled were very young, most of them in Primary Three or Four.
“This essentially means they were very, very young, many of them aged seven or eight. It was shocking,” revealed Javier Gasana, the deputy director-general in charge of quality and standards at REB.
Mr Gasana lamented that the girls’ lives were destroyed at an early age and urged Rwandans to help the government to reverse the worrying trend.
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The six-month survey also revealed that most of the culprits were relatives of the victims who, instead of protecting them, turned into violators.
Shockingly, there were cases where parents covered up the crime in order to hide the identity of their children, the survey showed.
“You know people fear talking about their embarrassing past. They live with that crime haunting them,” said an education official who declined to be named.
Besides relatives, others accused of having defiled the girls were houseboys, motorcyclists, teachers and shop owners, who used money as bait to lure their prey. Many of the girls dropped out of school after they got pregnant.
“We used to inspect schools and we realised that the attendance was going down,” said Mr Gasana, adding that the figure of 640 sex abuse victims was a shock to the officials. “We later discovered that it was the issue of pregnancies.”
Coach sodomised schoolboys
But it was not only girls who were targeted by the sex pests.
The official cited a primary school in Rwamagana where young boys were sodomised by a man who had been hired by the administration as the coach of the football team.
He had duped the administration into believing that he would help to establish a football academy and turn the boys into top-notch players.
“So, he would invite one boy in his room and sodomise him and then invite another one and do the same. In total, he abused seven young boys,” Mr Gasana told Rwanda Today.
Because the boys feared to reveal to each other what they were going through as it was very shameful, they lived in fear for months until their colleague who had learnt about the secret disclosed it to school authorities.
The coach has since been arrested.
The Rwanda National Police spokesperson, Superintendent Theo Badege, warned those involved in romantic relationships with underage girls will not get away with it as security officials were closely monitoring the education sector.
"But we need information and educationalists must co-operate with us,” Supt. Badege added.
When the report came out, an emergency meeting comprising officials from Gender Monitoring Office, police and the ministries of health and education was convened.
The Education Ministry then directed that a detailed survey be carried out by both the REB and the GMO.
The new survey was launched in December last year and its report is set to be released before the end of this year. The Ministry of Education is funding the survey.
Sources say the 2011 report was never made public since it was damaging the image of the education institution while Education ministry officials said its methodology was questionable.
Emmanuel Mucyangando, an adviser to the minister in charge of primary and secondary education, said the survey was “disturbing” to the ministry and other stakeholders.
“It was not conclusive and it lacked details. That is why a new survey is being conducted,” said Mr Mucyangando.