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Rwanda - People

Rwanda's population density is currently the highest in continental sub-Saharan Africa. It is still a very rural society, and many families live in self-contained compounds on hillsides. The urban concentrations are grouped around administrative centers. The indigenous population consists of three groups, or ubwoko -- Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa. there is no historical record of the conflict between the three groups in pre-colonial Rwanda. Traditionally, the population also is affiliated with one of 18 clans.

Accounts of the respective arrivals of each ubwoko centuries ago in the area of modern Rwanda were highly politicized throughout much of the 20th century. In the 1930s, the colonial administration had conducted a census for the three ethnic groups based on alleged physical characteristics, such as length of nose and other angular features of the face, and the number of cows each person possessed. After the census, those who had ten cows were registered as Tutsi, while those with less than 10 cows became Hutu.

In 1994, the Rwandan Government exploited the former Belgian colonialists’ “racialization” of differences among ubwoko and its inclusion on identity cards to fuel a state-orchestrated genocide. After the genocide, Rwanda’s national unity government stopped collecting data on ubwoko and banned its inclusion on identity cards. All Rwandans share the same native language and culture, so ubwoko today reflects a family identity that has been passed patrilineally. The Rwandan Government does not permit politicization of this identity or any form of discrimination based on a person’s ubwoko.

Until 1994, educational opportunities for Rwandans were extremely limited. After the genocide, most primary schools and more than half of prewar secondary schools reopened, though no more than 5% of the adult population received secondary education through 1996. Although educational quality remains an issue, access to education expanded dramatically in recent years and the Government of Rwanda’s Nine-Year Basic Education policy, implemented in 2010, contributed to an increase of the primary school completion rate from 52.4% in 2008 to 79% in 2011. Free basic education will be extended from 9 years to 12 years in 2012.

The National University (NUR) in Huye (formerly Butare), Rwanda’s sole university prior to 1994, reopened in April 1995; enrollment is over 7,000 students. Today, there are 29 institutions of higher learning in Rwanda. Between 1963 and 1993, Rwandan university graduates numbered roughly 1,900; today, Rwandan university enrollment exceeds 60,000. Sixty-three percent of the adult population is literate (2009). Building the educational system continues to be a high priority of the Rwandan Government. Rwanda has three official languages--Kinyarwanda, French, and English. The recent transition to English as the language of instruction in schools presents pedagogical challenges even as if offers prospects for increased opportunity within the East African Community and internationally.

As recently as 2001, only 3 out of every 1,000 people in Rwanda had access to phone lines, and 8 out of every 1,000 people had mobile phone subscriptions. Additionally, 90 percent of the population made a living from farming, most of which is very small-scale – even subsistence level – and forms the basis of the high number of micro and small enterprises at the root of Rwanda’s fledgling economy.

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Page last modified: 01-06-2015 18:32:01 ZULU