REB move to write, publish school books criticized

Monday November 18 2019

students

The Rwanda Education Board is now in full control of publishing academic books. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

MOSES K. GAHIGI
By MOSES K. GAHIGI
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Experts are raising the red flag over a decision by the Rwanda Education Board to write and publish academic books, arguing that the move would undercut players in the publishing sector and undermine the quality of education.

From last year, REB severed the contracts it had with publishing houses, saying some were making contextual errors, while others were getting the country’s history wrong.

The board resorted to employing teachers and curriculum experts to write books for the competency asked programme which came into effect in 2016.

REB also secured copyright to the books from the publishers at a price that did not please the latter.

“We sold the copyrights of our books at a loss, but there is nothing we could do.

The government was the sole client; the books were written for the Rwandan curriculum, we just had to accept the loss,” said one publisher.

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REB director-general Irene Ndayambaje said that not having full ownership to the books made operations difficult.

“Whenever we were dissatisfied with something we had no way of changing it. We had to run after a publisher; we needed to own the content of the competency-based curriculum,” he said.

REB is mandated to produce, elaborate and provide learning and teaching materials in line with the curriculum.

It also equips teachers with skills to implement the curriculum in place.

But an education expert who preferred anonymity said that while the shift will save the board publishing costs, it comes at a bigger cost of undermining the quality of education, because the teachers and curriculum developers contracted for the project lack the experience.

“Some of the books they have written look more like notes. The fact that REB is using civil servants who have to do their day jobs also presents a problem since writing requires concentration and full commitment on top of a specific skill set,” said the expert.

The expert recommended that the REB establishes a publishing department, hire full-time skilled staff and equip them adequately.

But Mr Ndayambaje said that REB is in control of the content quality.

“We are capable of writing our own books; the publishers failed to do even basic things like outlines and produced books with contextual errors, often misrepresenting our history,” he said.

“We are working closely with institutions like the national commission for the fight against genocide and AEGIS Trust to ensure the context is right.”

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