Books for All: Rwanda’s innovative textbook distribution program

A boy writes studiously in his notebook Rwanda. Credit: GPE
A boy writes studiously in his notebook Rwanda.
CREDIT: GPE
Rwanda is leading the way to ensure that textbooks are getting into every classroom in the country. Thanks to a $70 million grant from the Global Partnership for Education, the Rwandan Ministry of Education is pioneering a new electronic system that puts schools in control. This new system removes obstacles that previously prevented learning materials from getting into the hands of Rwandan boys and girls. The grant implementation is supervised by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

In 2007, Rwanda conducted a study about textbook availability in 60 schools across 20 districts. The study, which was supported by DFID, presented alarming findings: There were serious textbook shortages at all school levels and across all subjects. The government was not getting good value-for-money for learning materials. National targets of three students to every textbook were far from being met: The study found that in the case of first grade science, an astounding 265 students shared a single textbook.

Textbooks didn't reach the schools

Part of the problem was in distribution: Textbooks were warehoused in the capital and district offices and due to management and transport challenges the textbooks were not reaching all schools, especially not those in rural areas. The study also found other problems related to textbook distribution: inefficient system management, insufficient information from schools to plan and budget, procurement that wasn’t based on actual needs, dysfunctional storage, distribution and delivery, ineffective supervision of school stocks, inventories, management and maintenance, high levels of loss and damage in schools and ineffective communication with schools. The Ministry of Education’s decision to address this challenge head-on was widely supported by GPE development partners.

Six years later, the textbook landscape has changed drastically. Rwanda now has a fully computerized system for managing textbooks and learning materials – the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan Africa. Head teachers are in charge of ordering textbooks from an approved list, and funds are provided for these materials based on student enrollment. Publishers deliver the books to the schools at no extra cost - even off-road schools. They are paid directly by the government.

Rwanda, a champion in universal education

The Ministry of Education in Rwanda has truly changed its way of doing business around textbooks. Textbooks are now making it to every school in the country for the very first time, thanks to innovative thinking and dedicated efforts of the Ministry of Education, with support from GPE partners. The Ministry now knows –for the first time-- the exact inventory of every school in Rwanda. This allows districts to check on book care, book life, and classroom usage in a systematized way and improves planning capacity.

This example of an innovative approach to decentralized textbook distribution is only one of the many promising practices emerging in Rwanda’s education sector. Having received the prestigious Commonwealth Education Good Practice Award in August 2012 for its Nine-Year Basic Education program, Rwanda is fast building a track record as an education innovator. The Global Partnership, along with other development partners, is pleased to support the Government of Rwanda in strengthening the delivery of education services to all children in Rwanda.

Since 2007, Rwanda has received three GPE grants amounting to $175 million.

Textbooks
Sub-Saharan Africa: Rwanda

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The Global Partnership for Education Secretariat is headquartered in Washington DC and has approximately 100 staff. The Secretariat provides administrative and operational support to all its partners including 65 developing...

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