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  Effective post-war reconstruction through decentralisation
By Leila Loupis,
UNESCO Harare
   
    After the 1994 genocide, the Ministry of Education in Rwanda was faced with an almost impossible situation - how to reconstruct the education system which had been almost totally destroyed, leaving no more schools, supplies, teachers, programmes, nor administration?
   
    Faced with such an enormous task, the Ministry was forced to start from the basics. The first step was to re-open the schools. As many students had not been able to complete the previous school year, a 'special semester' was initiated at primary level so that the children could finish their studies and sit the relevant end-of-year exams.
   
    "Once the population saw that the schools had re-opened, the refugees and displaced people began to return to their villages in Rwanda and new life was injected into the country", says Mr Musabeyewu Narcisse, Director of pre-school, primary and special education and National EFA Coordinator. For the displaced populations, the opening of schools was equally the symbol and the guarantee of stability and peace.
   
  Active community participation
   
    At the beginning of 1995 the Ministry and all its partners put education on the agenda during a special conference on education policy and planning in order to establish the "what", "when", and "how" for the reconstruction of education. Based on their constraints, they modified their goal of education for all to the year 2005, aiming at a rate of 80% universal education for the year 2000.
   
    Priority was given to the creation of infrastructures, equipment and implementing emergency plans for teacher training at all levels. A special fund was created for children who were orphans of the genocide, so that they would not be excluded from the school system.
   
    The government also used an innovative approach in the decentralisation of the process of reconstruction and administration to the villages. On one hand, each village was to elect a management committee with one person designated responsible for education in that village. On the other, parents were mobilised and asked to participate in the construction of the schools - not with financial contributions but more with their labour.
   
  Optimistic trends
   
    Five years later, the progress is remarkable and the atmosphere optimistic, confirmed Mr Musabeyewu. The numbers of both students and teachers have increased. At the end of 1994 there were 16,825 teachers et 820,238 students in 1,283 education centres. At the end of 1997/98, there were 22,638 teachers, 1,167,274 students and 1,991 education centres. Moreover, the education programme has been harmonised, and administrative structures (inspectors, examination boards) established.
   
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