How foreign firms messed distribution of textbooks to Rwandan schools

Sunday April 22 2018

Delays in delivery of text books to schools

Delays in delivery of text books to schools forced the government to postpone national exams. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NATION 

JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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The delayed delivery of teaching and learning materials that forced government to postpone this year’s examinations under the new curriculum has been blamed on distribution glitches by publishers, Rwanda Today has learnt.

Several international companies with no presence in Rwanda are understood to have sought locals to help in distribution of books which were was printed abroad and later shipped into the country.

It has emerged that in most instances, the representatives failed or only made partial deliveries to schools.

A source privy to the deal indicated that 10 of more than 15 publishers contracted to supply books in the two initial phases of the curriculum implementation had challenges in delivering, while a few others stopped midway, citing numerous correction and lengthy approval process at Rwanda Education Board.

Some books were reportedly destroyed after spending more than eight months in the stores.

“There seemed to be no follow-ups. You would find that the people tasked to distribute the books keep them for eight months or even more. REB was somehow unaware of the goings on,” said a source.

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“Many of these international companies had no idea about the geographical locations of schools or even the transport logistics involved. With no local presence, they were unable to check whether the person paid to do their distribution made progress,” the source added.

In one recent case, 186 cartons of textbooks ready for distribution by one publisher were found dumped in a home in Karongi District.

The publishing firm, alongside three other companies are said to have delivered none of their books to several schools nationwide until after it came to the attention of the Ministry of Education.

The government had earlier planned to have books and other teaching materials relevant to the implementation of the new curricular completed in the 2016 and 2017 academic years for the first national examinations this year.

Last year, Auditor-General Obadia Biraro noted that the delays had affected the learning and students were unprepared to sit the tests under the new curriculum.

The 2016 report had showed that even where the books were delivered, they were never used as teachers were not trained in how to use them.

The delay in delivery of the books affected learning in most schools for the better part of the academic years since the introduction of the new curriculum. This forced several affected schools to continue using the old curriculum.

Parents, students and teachers supported the recent Cabinet resolution to push back national examinations under the new curriculum that were planned this year.

Failure to implement the new curriculum was cited among the reasons five senior REB officials including the head of curriculum, teaching and learning resources department were sacked.

Rwanda Today could not establish how much taxpayers lost as a result of the delays.

Education experts, however, said the delays took toll on learning, with implications likely to haunt the education output for the next two or so years.

Budget allocation to education sector for the last two years indicate that the Ministry of Education intended to spend over Rwf6.8 billion ($7.9 million) on procurement and distribution of more than 1,830,380 textbooks and reading materials for the new competence based curriculum for pre-primary, primary and secondary.

Training of teachers in the new curriculum implementation was to cost Rwf2 billion ($2.3 million).

REB director general Dr Ndayambaje Irénée, told Rwanda Today publishing companies implicated were compelled to deliver all the books but declined to divulge details.

He said most of the reported challenges were being addressed, among them developing content for missing books, training teachers as well as supplying schools with required ICT tools.

There are more than 46 titles for subjects like French, Kiswahili, science and ICT being developed using local writers, university lecturers and researchers. Some were introduced with the implementation of the new curriculum.

“The content has already been developed for these titles and given to the schools in soft form for use pending the printing in August this year. We believe everything will be in place for testing under the new curriculum to happen the next academic year,” he said.