Rwanda ditches French

Rwanda ditches French

It looks like Rwandan school children will soon be trading their copies of Le Petit Prince for Paddington Bear. Rwandan education officials announced this week that French will no longer be the first language of education — all lessons will be in English by 2011.

It would seem that this latest shedding of French culture by Rwandan officials comes too close on the heels of last summer’s controversial accusations to be taken as anything but an insult by France. It was just last August that an independent commission set up by the Rwandan government implicated 33 French military and political leaders in the 1994 genocide and called for them to stand trial. Rwanda’s current government, moreover, is led by former rebels who fought and ousted what they saw as French proxies.

Rwandan officials, however, were quick to add that this latest move is not a spiteful jab at France. Vincent Karega, Rwanda’s trade and industry minister, said the motive was purely economic: “English has emerged as a backbone for growth and development not only in the region but around the globe.” In addition to the English-speaking investors now coming to Rwanda, the country also relies on trade with places where deals are made in English, like East Africa.

Rwanda may be onto something here: The country’s state minister for education has already noted that English textbooks are much, much cheaper than the French alternative.

Photo: JOSE CENDON/AFP/Getty Images