Teaching English in Rwanda

Popularly known as ‘the land of a thousand hills’, Rwanda is a landlocked country in Africa with lush vegetation, a wide variety of wildlife, endless mountains and stunning scenery which includes six volcanoes, twenty-three lakes and numerous rivers, some forming the source of the great River Nile.

Due to recent changes in the law which promoted English language teaching (instead of French) there is a high demand for teachers in Rwanda. The authorities have, in fact, been targeting neighboring Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania trying to attract English teachers.


Rwanda is the most densely populated country in Africa. Its poor economy relies on agriculture, with 90% of the population being farmers. There are few natural resources and minimal industry.

Tragically remembered for the 1994 genocide in which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in 100 days, Rwanda has made substantial progress in stabilizing and rehabilitating its economy to pre-1994 levels.

However despite its efforts Rwanda continues to rely on substantial aid money and obtained IMF-World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative debt relief in 2005-06.

To contrast severe impoverishment the Rwandan government is working towards reducing poverty by improving education, infrastructure, and foreign and domestic investment and pursuing market-oriented reforms. However energy shortages, instability in neighboring states, and lack of adequate transportation linkages to other countries continue to handicap growth.

Changes & Qualifications

French used to be the official language spoken in Rwanda, but in October 2008 in an attempt to distance itself from France, accused of supporting Hutu militias in the Tutsis genocide, and to integrate further with the English-speaking East African Community, the Rwandan government decided that all education – from nursery schools to universities – will be taught in English instead of French.

In the relatively safe and sophisticated capital city Kigali, conversations are increasingly conducted in English, and asking for information in French is looked down upon. The Kigali Institute of Science and Technology is leading the way by having selected English as their official medium of instruction.

This change of policy opens new opportunities for English teachers and many international volunteer associations have started to recruit more TESL/TEFL teachers to work in Rwanda. Note the usual qualifications to teach here are a degree and a good TEFL Certificate such as the IWeb TEFL Certificate. Due to high demand, these requirements may be lessened.

Mary McCarthy is a VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) volunteer working as an English language teacher in Nyanza in a secondary school. This post is still in great demand in Rwanda as over a third of teachers were killed or exiled during the genocide. You can read about her experience on the VSO site.

Useful Links

Volunteering to teach English abroad – things to consider.

Teaching English with Volunteer Organizations – who to trust and how to go about it.

Posted in Country Guides.

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