CEC Journal: Issue 2

Institutional Causes of School Dropout in Rwanda: Perspectives of Community Education Workers


Quality education is indispensable for sustainable development: a statement that was reflected in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and is duly included in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For countries like Rwanda, achieving quality education is a development imperative that comes with challenges. After the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, about one million Tutsi and the Hutu who did not want to cooperate were killed, human capital was lost, and economic infrastructures destroyed. After surviving the emergency period, the future of Rwanda was well articulated and documented in the country’s Vision 2020: a national document that expresses the development aspirations of Rwanda. The document points out several pillars which will help support the envisioned development and these include human resource development and a knowledge-based economy. Vision 2020 also highlights gender equity and equality as a cross cutting theme, which implies the right quantity and quality of education at all levels for boys and girls. In addition, Rwanda draws targets for its global commitments from the former Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the current Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); with regard to MDGs, Rwanda is among a few developing countries that performed commendably. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP, 2014) reports that primary school attendance had reached 96.5% by 2012 compared to 72.6% in 2000. The primary school completion rate also increased from 24.1% in 2000 to 72.7% in 2012. These results happened because, among other bold practical strategies, Rwanda’s education was made free of charge and compulsory nine / twelve – year- basic education (9/12YBE). According to this policy, every child should attend a universal free and compulsory education. When it was started, it was 9 years, meaning 6 years for primary and 3 years for secondary. It was later upgraded to become 6 post primary years of free universal education.  
Despite these improvements, however, the school dropout rate in Rwanda has persisted and in 2014, the primary school dropout increased to 14.3% from 11.4% in 2010. In 2013, the dropout rate was 14.7% in lower secondary (grades 8, 9, and 10) and 6.2% in upper secondary school (grades 11 and 12); both rates represent an increase from 2010 which stood at 7.4% overall dropout (Ministry of Education - MINEDUC, 2014). The 2014 education report points out that “a high dropout rate of 28.3% is observed in Primary 5, followed by 13.8% for Primary 2, while the lowest dropout rate of 10.2% is observed in Primary 1” (Workforce Development Authority, 2016). The 4th Rwanda Population and Housing Census, (2012RPHC4) also revealed that only 64% of children with disabilities were attending school, 27% of them had never attended school while 9% had prematurely left school. In a study conducted by Rwanda Education Board (2012), it was indicated that “the drop out and repetition rate of primary and secondary school pupils was very high in several Districts  including Gasabo, Ngororero and Musanze”. 
Several measures have been taken by public, private and nonprofit organizations to curb the school dropout rates. For instance, Imbuto Foundation, a national nonprofit, joined hands with the Innovation for Education, a project funded by the United Kingdom (UK),which funded innovative educational projects in Rwanda. Following the African proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child”, this project achieved commendable results including more involvement of parents in school management and as a result, it is reported that 9,484 boys and girls were successfully sent back to school in Musanze, Gasabo and Ngororero districts (Imbuto Foundation, 2013). Despite such successful initiatives though, current education statistics indicate that school dropout is still alarming.  The performance contracts 2015/2016 signed between District Mayors and the President of Republic of Rwanda indicated that the baseline school dropout rate in Gasabo was 8.5% in primary school and 8.6% in secondary. The overall school dropout in Musanze District is 11.9%. In Ngororero, the primary school dropout rate is 10.40% and 16% at lower secondary (MINALOC, 2015). While the performance contracts pledge to reduce the school dropout rates, it is important to highlight causes of school dropouts so that measures taken can tackle the right root causes otherwise interventions will be futile. The map below shows where Musanze, Gasabo and Ngororero are located. 

Given the above-mentioned information, the purpose of the study in this article is to unpack the qualitative dynamics of persisting institutional causes of school dropout in Gasabo, Musanze, and Ngororero Districts. Specifically, the study sought to (i) explore links between family environment and school dropout, (ii) highlight ways in which community environment influences school dropout, and finally, (iii) analyze the effect of school environment on school dropout. 


Many children finish a certain educational level but do not proceed to the next one. In their study, Russel Rumberger and Sun Ah Lim (2008:2) pointed out three types of institutions that directly influence school dropout: family, community and schools. These types of institutions will guide our literature review below. 


There is tendency to look at families as homogeneous units. Karen K. Kirst-Ashman & Grafton H. Hull (2009) challenge that tendency in that each family has its unique structure within which there are patterns of connection and interaction that make it inimitable.  In their study conducted in the USA, Rumberger & Lim (2008:2) suggest that when analyzing families, three factors should be considered, that is (1) family structure, (2) family resources, and (3) family practices. These authors maintain that students living with both parents are less likely to dropout. Changes in family structure coupled with events such as divorce, death, illness, and family migration increase the probability of school dropout. It is further suggested that family resources such as family income, parents’ educational attainment, and parents’ occupations decrease the chances of school dropout. Furthermore, family interest in the education of their children that manifests in terms of communicating with the school, monitoring children’s school performance, having high educational goals for their children, and the interest taken in their children’s friends have all been reported to impact school dropout. Finally, a child with a sibling who has dropped out of school is most likely to dropout themselves (Rumberger & Lim, 2008:2). While the current study was undertaken in the USA, the Rwanda’s Education for All (2015:12) National Review seems to agree with some findings in that it points out that different challenges affecting school dropout in Rwanda include household costs, parents’ lack of interest in educating their children, and domestic chores. 

In addition to the factors above, gendered labor division in households also has been said to have a negative contribution on girls’ schooling. In a comparative study undertaken in Nepal, Peru, and Zimbabwe, Lire Ersado (2005) found out that girl children tend to do more household chores than their brothers and, that urban girls do less household chores than their rural counterparts. The Rwanda’s National Education for all evaluation (2015:12) confirms that girls are most likely to dropout than boys due to the traditional belief that girls are better at household chores than boys. Peace Uwineza and Elisabeth Pearson (2009) argue that traditionally, when resources were not adequately supplied, the little that was available was used for men and boys; but that access to, and control over, resources would change if families were better off. The United Nations (2015:25) also agrees that when resources are adequately supplied, both girls and boys may have increased opportunities to carry on their studies. 

It is noted that in developing countries, children in the poorest households are four times as likely to dropout of school than those in more financially stable households. Ricardo Sabates, Kwame Akyeampong, Jo Westbrook & Frances Hunt (2010) carried out a study where they compared data from different countries including Rwanda, Senegal, Niger, Mali, Zambia and Tanzania. They observed that reasons as to why students dropout target differently boys and girls. They also realized that statistical differences between rich and poor households regarding school dropout are insignificant. Furthermore Jonathan Jacob Doll, Zohreh Eslami, and Lynne Walters (2013) report that boys may dropout because their family circumstances require them to work, while girls may drop as a result of early marriage and pregnancy. 


Communities influence school dropout. In a study conducted by Netsayi N. Mudege, Eliya M. Zulu, and Chimaraoke Izugbara (2008) in Kenya, they report that insecure neighborhoods may have influence on schooling. In addition, Rumberger & Lim (2008) observe that while living in a very poor community may not necessarily affect one’s schooling, living in a wealthy community positively influences school success in that it provides both resources and role models to young men and women. However, Maria G. Rendon (2014) argues that communities where a certain household is located may have a less influence on school performance and dropout. Her argument was based on the fact that students spend more time at school as compared to what they spend in their families and communities.  

Evidence collected from Bangladesh by Nekatibeb Shahidul (2012) suggests that girls from lower socioeconomic backgrounds tend to drop out from secondary school. It is further highlighted that education delays marriage of girls, which is not supported by culture, implying that factors such as parents cultural beliefs, their economic status, and educational attainment are forces that may differently affects education of boys and girls. The strength of cultural beliefs was substantiated by Save the Children (2005) where it is indicated that cultural norms and beliefs are a barrier to girls’ education in some developing countries. All in all, communities and the sociocultural forces affect boys and girls differently because of societal gendered expectations, implying that such forces may cause boys and boys to dropout in a different way, though.  


Rendon (2014) suggests that schools are powerful institutions that influence youth school success by means of their curricula and schools’ policies on quality assurance.  It is also highlighted that schools are capable of worsening community inequity because well off parents select high quality schools while worse off parents have no choice but poor quality schools. However, Rumberger (2011) suggests that the school environment is made up of different elements including  (i) social composition in terms of the socioeconomic composition of students attending a given school, (ii) structural characteristics including school location, size, and control / ownership (iii) school resources like teacher quality, funding, and (iv) policy and practices enforced and how they translate in academic and social climate. Teshome Nekatibeb (2002) observes that school distance is an important determinant of school dropout for female students as that might expose them to possible sexual harassment.

A study conducted by Habibullah Habib (2014) in Afghanistan suggests that fewer boys with a female instructor did dropout than girls taught by a male instructor, which calls for training and deploying more female teachers alongside their male counterparts. Another study conducted in Kenya by Sarah Jewitt & Harriet Ryley (2014) suggests that girls, especially from poor families, are likely to miss classes and eventually dropout as a result of menstruation and lack of access to sanitary products in their schools. In effect, their spatial mobility and social capital are restricted and translate in few opportunities during the course of their lives.

A study conducted in Rwanda by Olukemi Asemota & Shirley Randell (2011) on impact of child friendly schools, found out that some challenges that interfere in the quality of girls education included (i) unqualified teachers; for example: in one secondary school, two out of 19 secondary teachers had degrees, and only 80 primary teachers had graduated from education colleges. (ii) insufficient didactic materials, (iii) abrupt change in the language of instruction in secondary from Kinyarwanda (taught from P1-P4) and French (P5-P6) to English (P6 onwards), and with just two weeks training per year, teachers had not mastered this change and had very little formal training (iv) limited training for district and school managers, who needed to have greater proficiency in management, statistics, finance, information technology, the English language, and teacher supervision. 

Causes of school dropout have been discussed with reference to family, community and school environment. While extant literature has helped learn from different contexts, it also sought to shed light on what is happening in Rwanda. 


In this section, I discuss the choice of study design, site description, sampling, data collection tools, and data analysis.  Accordingly, this study utilizes a qualitative case study approach to reach conclusions. According to Robert K. Yin (2003), a case study design is most appropriate when (i) the study focuses on answering to “how” and “why” questions; (ii) the behavior of research participants cannot be manipulated; (iii) the researcher seeks to cover contextual conditions because it is believed they are relevant to the phenomenon considered for the study; or (iv) the boundaries are not clear between the phenomenon and context.

 As such, the study is concerned with perspectives of community education workers from the Gasabo, Musanze, and Ngororero districts. Gasabo District is one of the three districts of the city of Kigali.  The third Integrated Survey on Households Living Conditions (EICV3) results show that the total population of Gasabo district in 2010–11 is 477,000. This represents 45% of the total population of Kigali City and 4.4% of the total population of Rwanda. Females comprise 51.6% of the population of Gasabo District. Gasabo has fifteen (15) Sectors namely Bumbogo, Gatsata, Jali, Gikomero, Gisozi, Jabana, Kinyinya, Ndera, Nduba, Rusororo, Rutunga, Kacyiru, Kimihurura, Kimironko and Remera. This district covers urban and peri–urban areas. The mean walking distance to a primary school in Gasabo district is 25.5 minutes and 32.9% of households are between 30 and 59 minutes from a primary school. This walking distance to a primary school in Gasabo district is further than the mean distance in urban areas, which is 19.4 minutes. The average size of the household is 4.8 for Gasabo district, which is the same as the national average (National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, 2012a).

Ngororero is one of the districts of the Western Province. It covers thirteen sectors namely Bwira, Gatumba, Hindiro, Kabaya, Kageyo, Kavumu, Matyazo, Muhanda, Muhororo, Ndaro, Ngororero, Nyange and Sovu. The Enquête Intégrale sur les Conditions de Vie des ménages, that is, Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV3) results show that the total population of Ngororero district in 2010–2011 was 342,000. This represents 13.2% of the total population of Western Province and 3.2% of the total population of Rwanda. Females comprised 52.3% of the population of Ngororero district. The mean walking distance to a primary school is 32.1 minutes and 40.8% of households are between 30 and 59 minutes of a primary school. Ngororero is ranked fourth last district by average household size The average size of the household is 4.6 for Ngororero District, which is less than the national average (4.8) (National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, 2012b).

Musanze district is located in the  Northern Province. It has fifteen sectors namely Busogo, Cyuve, Gacaca, Gashaki, Gataraga, Kimonyi, Kinigi, Muhoza, Muhoza, Muko, Musanze, Nkotsi, Nyange, Remera, Rwaza, and Shingiro. Results from the Enquête Intégrale sur les Conditions de Vie des ménages, that is, Integrated Household Living Conditions Survey (EICV3) shows that the total population of Musanze District in 2010–2011 was 416,000. This represents 21% of the total population of Northern Province and 3.9% of the total population of Rwanda. The average size of the household is 4.8, which is the same as the national average. The mean walking distance to school is 21.6 minutes, which is above the mean distance in urban areas (19.4 minutes). In rural areas, the mean walking distance to a primary school is 28.6 minutes, while it is 27.2 minutes country-wide. 29.8% of households in Musanze are between 30 and 59 minutes of a primary school (National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, 2012c).

The study purposively involved 214 Community Education Workers (CEWs) from Gasabo, Musanze and Ngororero Districts respectively. In Rwanda, CEWs were introduced by Imbuto Foundation in a trial to see whether communities can be better involved in education and schools management, just like the way health community workers have been successfully helping in community health matters. In their daily activities, they deal with all key stakeholders in education including pupils / students, parents, teachers, and school heads. As such, they were chosen with a belief that they had the required information appropriate to answer research questions for this study. 

In Gasabo, 70 CEWs were involved, including 35 men and 35 women; in Musanze, 67 CEWs were involved, including 32 women and 35 men, while 77 CEWs were involved, including 32 women and 45 men in Ngororero District. In order to collect data, training sessions were organized in three different Districts. In all venues, groups were split in three sub groups and convened in different training rooms. Each room was assigned with a master facilitator and an assistant facilitator. While the master facilitator led the flow of the facilitation, the assistant facilitator provided note taking and logistical support. All rooms were supervised by the researcher.

The CEWs were facilitated to share in a structured manner their lived experiences regarding helping sending back to school previous school dropouts. The master facilitator asked one question: “What is the cause of school dropout in your area?” For convenience purposes, the room would agree on broad ways to categorize each cause. CEWs were encouraged to use creative methods of sharing their experiences. Their preferred method was role pay and stories. In essence, they were sharing their compiled monthly reports in interactive and participatory settings. Data were noted and thereafter analyzed as per their content. In order to respect research participants’ anonymity and confidentiality, pseudonyms were used instead of real names. The findings and their discussion are dealt with in the following section. 


As suggested by Rumberger and Lim (2008), school dropout is influenced by many factors including family, community and schools environments. The following findings provide insights from Rwanda. 


Family environments are complex. Their social economic dynamics vary and differently and persistently influence the school dropout. Family environment is herewith discussed with reference to family food scarcity, irresponsible parenting, family conflicts, separation and polygamy, being orphan and head of the family, family migration, parents’ ignorance, and children are far older than their classmates, and experiences of the historically marginalized families.

First off, some families are too poor to afford enough meals. Some families have experienced the vicious cycle of poverty. A study participant said:
In my neighborhood, some families are too poor to afford regular meals. Children from such families go to bed hungry, they are likely to absent themselves. In other cases, I heard of children who sleep in classes, they go to school hungry and cannot participate adequately; they end up dropping their studies. When I try to have them back to school, they drop out again (Matayo, Gasabo district). 
Another participant pointed out that: 
There are some families that struggle to feed children. Such children cannot easily carry on their studies. Instead, they are easily recruited in sand and stone quarries, working as home maids, bicycle taxi business, carrying bricks, farm labor, minerals mines, petty trade (peanuts, cigarettes, sweets), and collecting solid metal waste for recycling. Some children even collect expired sardines from waste collection centers (Karumuna, Ngororero district). 
Clearly, household poverty influences school dropout. Poor households cannot easily afford regular meals and children cannot study well without enough quantity and quality of food. Such children go to school hungry and cannot participate actively. As a result, they resort to dropping out their studies and efforts to bring them back to school are not productive. In the second quotation, it is clear that some activities compete with children’s schooling because they provide ‘hope for food’. These activities vary from neighborhood to neighborhood and sometimes include fake opportunities that result in child labor and in collecting expired food stuffs that may endanger the child’s health. 

Secondly, irresponsible parenting was identified as one of the causes of school dropout. This participant made it clear that:
…. there are children born from Ugandan and Somali truck drivers. These park their trucks in Gatsata, Gasabo and make children with local sex workers. Their mothers are not able to cater for their survival needs, leave alone the need for quality education (Gakwerere, Ngororero District). 
In the above quote, it is clear that some men and women make children without necessarily planning their future. Children born in such circumstances have little chances for schooling especially when their mothers have limited financial means – which is often the case. 

Thirdly, issues of family conflicts and polygamy play a considerable negative role. Participants in this study shared their respective experiences as follows: 
In our Sector, I know families which experience marital conflicts and often graduate in unofficial divorce. One of men had marital issues, migrated to Kigali and ended up in an unofficial marriage. He made children there as well. His two children from the first wife have dropped out their studies (Sewabana, Ngororero district).
Another participant observed that: 
Our neighbor was separated. She started a small bar business to ensure survival. In order to keep her clients, she also engaged in sex work… Her daughter sometimes helped her in business. Some of her mother’s clients expected the same services from the daughter. She resisted in first days but her mother insisted that she should make happy the clients. Out of no rescue, she had to be a ‘good girl’. She turned out pregnant. Her schooling was suspended (Mahoro, Gasabo district).
The stories shared above illustrate some of the family realities that may lead to school dropout. Unfortunately, such dynamics are not seasonal. Efforts put in place to send back to school children experiencing unstable family conditions may not be fruitful since such efforts do not necessarily eradicate root causes. Indeed, there may be a vicious cycle of school dropout in such a way that if a mother dropped out, the off springs are likely to dropout. 

Fourthly, being orphan and head of the family does not make schooling an easy endeavor and there are three cases of orphanhood. There are (i) orphans of the 1994 genocide, (ii) ‘ordinary’ orphans, and (iii) insecurity orphans. The first case relates to children who survived the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.  A participant clarified that:
There are cases of children who survived the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. In most cases, the elder sisters or brothers drop out their schooling so that they can help their siblings to survive. In other instances, children may have a surviving ill health parent. His / her children may not continue with their studies well.  Efforts put in place to bring them back to school do not work because the root cause is still intact (Karumuna, Ngororero district). 
The second case concerns children whose two parents died a natural death. One of the participants illustrated this case as follows:
I know two girls in my Sector whose parents died three years ago. They were in Primary 5 and 4 respectively. After they became orphans, they had none else to look after them. They dropped out so that they could provide for the basic survivor needs. When I tried to work with their school to reintegrate them back, they only studied for one week and dropped out again (Kigingi, Musanze district). 
The third case is about children whose parents died during 1997’s infiltration wars. One participant shared her experience as follows:
One boy in my neighborhood is an orphan. His parents and siblings died of the insecurity that ravaged Rwanda in 1997. He first depended on his extended family for schooling. Eventually, uncles wanted to exploit him and sell of the property inherited from deceased parents. He resisted and they could not support him further. As a result, he did not go back to school. Instead, he works in the farm on a daily basis (Gakwavu, Musanze district).  
In the last experience, it is important to explain that after the Tutsi genocide, many innocent people fled to neighboring countries with pre-1994 armed forces that were implicated in the violence. The Eastern Congo refugee camps became a training terrain and as such, the former forces waged many guerrilla wars in an attempt to destabilize the country and oust the post- genocide government. Such invasions claimed lives of many innocent men and women, boys and girls. 

In all the above cases, the surviving older siblings became heads of families and are hardly able to meet basic daily needs. Interestingly, sisters regardless of their age are often reported to be the most likely to drop out as they are believed to be better as household chores than their brothers. In any case, such children hardly go to school and they are likely to dropout at any time. Efforts to bring them back to school are unproductive as the root cause (of them having to head their families) remains.  

Fifth, family migration has contributed to school dropout. One of the participants said that:
In Kinyinya sector, families have been pushed to sell their properties and relocate. In the new areas, children were not reintegrated in schooling. This was caused by either lack of parents’ willingness.  In a new residence, schools were not necessarily accommodated in schools especially at the end of the academic year (Benjamin, Gasabo district). 
Sixth, school dropout has resulted from inadequate parents’ participation in school management. One participant shared that: 
In my sector, some parents are so ignorant that they do not adequately participate in school management meetings even when they are invited. They do not embrace resolutions from parents meetings; do not monitor the performance and discipline of their children at school. In the end, such children easily dropout. Unfortunately, this may not be known easily as children leave home and claim to be schooling while they do not (Gakuru, Gasabo district). 
Seventh, parents’ perception and children’s disability have contributed to school dropout. One participant said:
I asked my neighbor why his daughter was no longer going to school. He replied that he was not comfortable when the neighborhood referred to him as a father of a disabled child, and that it was better to keep him at home (Gato, Gasabo district). 
Eighth, family size has contributed to school dropout. One participant shared that:
In Musanze District, an average family has 6 children. The number of children propels conflicts in families, irresponsibility of parents, emigration to Uganda, child labor, elder children forced to cater for their younger siblings, all of which play against schooling (Ndiho, Musanze district). 
Lastly, historically marginalized groups in Rwanda have been left behind in many perspectives including education. One of participants said that:
The Batwa  are historically marginalized. Their children do not go to school. Parents’ mindset does not sustain their children’s education. Their children schooling dropout midway, and rather join their parents in making and selling clay pots (Nyanja, Musanze district). 
The case of the vulnerable members of the society, especially some Batwa, is a particular one and the lack of role models amongst families may be one of the decisive factors. This is corroborated by the New Times’ Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuri (2014) in quoting the comments of the State Minister for Social Affairs, when visiting historically marginalized people in Musanze district. The comments observe that in spite of government’s efforts to   promote free primary and secondary education, children from historically marginalised families were not equally taking advantage of these opportunities. 


Apart from socio-cultural and economic environment of families, community related factors have affected smooth education for boys and girls. These include fake employment opportunities and perceived unemployment, shortage of water, peer pressure and promiscuous neighbourhoods, as well as entertainment places in respective communities. 
Fake employment opportunities and perceived unemployment upon graduation is a complex issue. School going youth perceive that they have no employment opportunities upon graduation. They, therefore, do not see a need to carry on their education. One participant reports that:
In my discussions we a school dropper, she made it clear that even those who graduated were unemployed. She added that she was better off being employed in a restaurant as this granted her means to meet her basic needs unlike the so called senior 6 graduates (Toto, Ngororero district).  
Another participant clarified that:
Many boys and girls are attracted by some money making opportunities and stop their schooling. Places like Gakinjiro in Gisozi sector, Gasabo District have dissuaded children from schooling. They collect the wasted metals and sell them to whose sellers for recycling purposes. They also make some money from the timber dust ‘gasenyi’ that they sell to brickmaking entrepreneurs (Sehene, Gasabo district). 
A participant from Musanze District corroborated that:
In the neighbourhoods of Ruhondo Lake like Gashaki sector school going boys and girls are tempted by the fishing industry taking place in the lake.  In all cases, children spend their money on luxuries like mobile telephones, drugs, and alcohol. Efforts to bring them back to school often do not work (Murobyi, Musanze district). 
Apart from perceived employment and unemployment, water shortage is a serious concern that has contributed to school dropout. 
In my neighborhood, children are sent to fetch water in morning hours. They are expected to go to school thereafter. At the pump, especially during dry seasons, they join long queues and come back when it is too late to go to school. When this repeats itself several times, it translates in absenteeism. Further, this translates in school dropout. Efforts to bring back such children to school do not work as their parents expectations do not change (Havuga, Musanze district). 
In some communities, there are promiscuous places that dissuade children from school children are subject to too much peer pressure. A participant shared that:
Such places include Bannyahe, Nyabisindu near Kibagabaga and Remera in Gasabo district, they imitate their peers who use drugs. Also, in ‘mu kidelenka’ (a place for delinquent youth), they can easily access the drugs black markets (Gakwavu, Gasabo district). 
Another participant observed that: 
In Muhoza sector, there is a place called tête gauche. This place is known for accommodating many sex workers. In few meters, on the shores of Mpenge River, the youth congregate there to use drugs. Children who often use that path to school are more and more vulnerable to both drug abuse and prostitution. They are as a result prone to absenteeism and possible dropout. Efforts to bring them back to school have been challenged by the prevailing environment (Hitimana, Musanze district). 
Finally, with some developments in the entertainment industry in Rwanda, some children are tempted to do poor schooling and dropout. A participant observed that:
Some entrepreneurs have made money in interpreting films to make them user friendly to their only Kinyarwanda speaking audiences. In some communities, children just need 100 Rwandan Francs entry ticket. In the beginning, they may be late for school but in the end they are more prone to absenteeism and possible dropout especially when their parents do not exercise strict follow up (Byishimo, Ngororero district). 


The school environment includes teachers’ perception of children with physical disabilities, non-tuition costs of education, and teachers’ satisfaction with their salaries. 

First, learners with disabilities have been pushed to dropout because of unsupportive school environment. A participant shared that:
Learners with physical disabilities face a number of challenges. The school physical environment does not cater for their special needs. There are no appropriate teaching aids. There are also some teachers who verbally stigmatize learners, they label them ‘casualty’(Ndiho, Musanze district). 
The term casualty is supposed to mean a person who died in war or accident; it has been used in post–genocide Rwanda to mean a person who lacks one or more of their limbs. Such labels cause further stigmatization from classmates and as result, target learners decide to dropout and further reintegration may not be successful. Moreover, despite the government’s efforts to provide a tuition free twelve year basic education (12YBE), some public schools still do not allow learners to take their studies if they have not paid the non-tuition charges. Interestingly, some families are unable to raise such fees. When this challenge is connected with other issues like parents’ ignorance and personal hardships, the most likely option is to ask their children to dropout. The following point was made by a participant:
The Government has made 12YBE tuition –free. However, some schools still charge non tuition fees like scholastic materials and uniforms. For some families, this is still not affordable (Hitimana, Musanze district). 
However, teachers’ paycheck has been raised as a contributor to poor education and school dropout. This point was illustrated by a participant who said:
Teachers pay does not allow them to meet basic daily needs. Some teachers do not concentrate on teaching; they rather opt to teach evening private classes in families that can afford to pay for such services. Those that cannot pay see their children suffer. There are other cases of teachers who are pursuing higher education without the knowledge of their supervisors, and have less time for their classes. Some children loose interest and end up dropping out (Petero, Gasabo district). 
It is reported that teachers are the least paid public servants in Rwanda. This has been taken as an excuse for some teachers for not doing their best to positively impact learners’ experiences.  It translates in poor quality and possible school dropouts. In this climate, some teachers have taken measures to resolve their personal problems. Some strategies include identifying parents who can pay for out of school private tutoring. Fees collected from such arrangements motivate teachers to even provide less teaching materials as a recruitment strategy, that is, they convince some parents that their children can have better materials in private classes. In other cases, some teachers run small businesses whose time may compete with their official duties. Also, other teachers with high school teacher training certificates – who teach primary school -- and those with Bachelors’ degrees – who teach high school -- have devised means to advance their education with a hope to increase employment opportunities in the future. These teachers join evening and/or weekend programs offered by different higher learning institutions in Rwanda and depending on one’s residence, some teachers in Musanze go to Uganda for further studies. Since they have no study leave and their line managers may not always be aware, their time is claimed by competing demands, which may translate in poor quality and possible school dropouts.
School performance in national exams has also contributed to school dropout. A participant from Musanze singled out that:
For example, no single pupil passed national exam for three consecutive academic years in 4 schools.  In other cases, children have been discouraged by teachers who verbally discourage learners. I also know cases of children who reached primary 6 without enough literacy and numeracy and end up dropping out. How can a learner be promoted to the next level without satisfying the prerequisites? This is one of causes of school dropout (Kigingi, Musanze district).    


Despite efforts deployed by the Government of Rwanda and development partners to ensure twelve-year universal education, school dropout has prevailed.  The study in this article sought to explore institutional causes of school dropout in Rwanda with emphasis on family environment, community environment and school environment.  The research highlights several factors for each institution that contribute to persistent school dropout. In a final analysis however, there is no single factor that can always explain causes for school dropout and causes may often be interwoven such that it becomes difficult to disentangle the phenomenon in a clear cut fashion. 


Given the findings and conclusions above, the responsibility of fighting school dropout cannot be single-handedly taken by one actor. It is said that “prevention is better than cure” and for school dropout to be prevented in an effective manner, a multi -dimensional approach is needed. While policies and programs to improve social and economic development have been put in place, there remains the need to make them work. This calls for the participation of different stakeholders including families, community members, local police, school leaders and teachers, religious institutions, Local Government, and Non-Government Organizations. 
The author is thankful to Imbuto Foundation, Rwanda for supporting the training of Community Education Workers. Without their support, data collection would have been difficult. However, ideas discussed in this article do not represent the official position of any of organizations cited. They are the sole responsibility of the author. 


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