Several children's books lying face up on a blue shelf.

Paving a Path to Literacy in Rwanda .

Education | Advancing Quality Education | Education Systems Strengthening and Policy Reform

Soma Umenye

Project Dates: July 2016 - December 2021
One of the first countries to embrace USAID’s new reading-focused education policy in 2011, Rwanda is maintaining its momentum, advancing the literacy of at least 1 million children in the first through third grades.

Over the past two decades, Rwanda has made progress toward its goal of becoming a country with a middle-income, knowledge-based economy. Strengthening education was a cornerstone of this effort, so the USAID Soma Umenye project partnered with the Rwandan Ministry of Education to support early literacy. The project reached at least 1 million children in the first through third grades who attended public and government-aided schools to advance their reading skills in Kinyarwanda. Kinyarwanda is not only one of Rwanda’s national languages but also the language most Rwandans speak. (The project’s name, “Soma Umenye,” translates from Kinyarwanda to English as “Read and Understand.”) Soma Umenye focused on fluency and comprehension skills, skills necessary for students to succeed in later grades and the modern workplace.


Early grade learners reached


point increase in P2 learners achieving grade-level benchmarks and 24% point decrease in P3 zero scorers


Teaching and learning materials distributed

Project Goals

  • Work closely with the Ministry of Education to improve the quality of primary-level classroom instruction
  • Apply performance standards and benchmarks with the Ministry of Education to track early-grade reading achievements
  • Coordinate with the Ministry of Education and the University of Rwanda to conduct and apply research on reading instruction
  • Collaborate with the Ministry of Education to provide more evidence-based, gender-sensitive early-grade reading materials to teachers and students