Rwanda: Are Literary Cafés in Schools the Key to Stronger Reading Culture?

A l iterary café has for years acted as a useful heuristic device for people to find out how writers make sense of social and cultural phenomena by exploring their literary works and sharing insights.

Nevertheless, it is rare to find such events in Rwandan schools given that the culture of reading and writing is still considered low.

Edition Flores Zoa, an international publishing house that recently opened in Rwanda, is trying to bridge the gap by organising literary cafés in high schools.

On December 3, they hosted one that saw over 30 students who are part of a literary club at Institut de Formation Apostolique de Kimihurura (IFAK), together with their educators and different authors share lessons they have acquired through reading Boubacar Boris Diop’s “Murambi: The Book of Bones”, as well as discussing the role of reading and writing.

According to Alex Rudasingwa, Country Representative of the publishing house which is chaired by Agnes Nda Zoa Meiltz, they first created a literary club in the school and donated copies of the book to its members before hosting the literary café.

“We want to advance the culture of reading books among students so that they can expand their knowledge. We know that reading hard copies rather than online reading comes with valuing the book and realising how powerful it is,” Rudasingwa says, adding that by reading books, students will also grow with the culture of buying books, thus mitigating one of the challenges local authors face.

Rudasingwa also notes that the publishing house seeks to help students in the literary clubs they create in different high schools and universities write their own books by bringing young and established authors to train them.

Viateur Bigenimana who teaches languages at IFAK says that since a literary club started in the school, more students have embraced reading books.

“When a student reads books and shares ideas with colleagues, it helps us a lot by easing the way we teach them,” he says.

Bigenimana also notes that the school seeks to avail more books for students to read as well as organising different reading and writing sessions and competitions.

He calls for the establishment of literary clubs in all schools in Rwanda to help students improve their knowledge of languages and enrich their social lives.

Sandra Barthonne Kayiranga, the president of a literary club at IFAK, says that members not only read and review books but also perform poetry and learn from each other, thus embracing teamwork.

She adds that writing helps her to clear stress, adding that by reading, she has been able to improve her writing and critical thinking skills.

Jonathan Dusabe, one of the students who shared insights from “Murambi: The Book of Bones” highlighted how it helped him understand the history of Rwanda and where he wants to go.

“I learned that there were a lot of differences and divisions created by missionaries and colonialists who came to Rwanda and separated Rwandans into Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa to keep us away from getting ahead. By reading the book, I understood where I want to go and how I can mitigate the spirit of hatred against my Rwandan fellows and protect them from repeating those actions,” he says.

Disable notes that being part of a literary club is worthwhile, declaring that it helps in talent upbringing as members strive to perfect their reading and writing skills.


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