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Reducing the dropout rate in rural Rwanda

The partnership between the Hempel Foundation and UNICEF aims to reduce the dropout rate among Rwandan students, which disproportionally affects adolescent girls, and to improve re-enrolment opportunities for students who leave school prematurely. The project directly impacts around 6400 girls and 1400 boys across approximately 300 schools.

  • Where
    Ngoma, Rwanda
  • Focus area
  • Duration
    2019 - 2022
  • Economy
    Hempel Foundation: DKK 15 million
    UNICEF Denmark: DKK 7.5 million
Prime partner: UNICEF Denmark

The challenge

With national enrolment at 98,3% in 2018, Rwanda has succeeded in creating decent access to elementary-level education for its youth. Educational progress is considered critical in order for Rwanda to accomplish an enterprising and visionary transformation from its agriculture-based economy to a more specialised knowledge economy in 2050. However, there are still considerable levels of inequality in terms of access to education and the socioeconomic effects of obtaining a degree, which are unveiled when looking at factors such as income, geography, gender and disability.

Despite progress in other areas, the number of Rwandan children finishing primary school was notably lower in 2016 (65,2%) than in 2012 (72,7%), and the percentage of students dropping out during the transitional period between primary and secondary school is still rising. The rate of absorption into secondary education was 71,1% in 2015, marking a clear decline from 86,2% in 2011.

Whilst few children leave in the early years of primary school, 20,8% percent drop out in the last year of primary (Primary 6), which is the transitional year to secondary school. Only few of these children ever return to school. Furthermore, a highly problematic gender gap appears when examining school results, with girls performing significantly worse than boys. This disparity disadvantaging girls can be attributed to social norms and traditions. The dropout rate from primary school among girls is consistently rising in correlation with fewer girls registering for secondary education.

The partnership is based on a co-creation model, where the specific areas of intervention and deliverables will be defined during a start-up workshop in Rwanda during Q1 of 2019.

Our approach

The project focuses on marginalised girls in Rwanda’s rural communities, who are now offered new educational opportunities and motivating learning environments through remedial programmes. The partnership between the Hempel Foundation and UNICEF will address and look to solve potential barriers for girls’ education, such as access, quality, demand and social norms.

Our approach revolves around raising awareness and addressing negative, deconstructive social norms in relation to education for girls, and bringing forward both technological and scientific measures to achieve gender parity in Rwanda’s schools. To fully implement this, we are cooperating with Career Women’s Network Kigali and Urunana Development Communication to change the current parameters and affect change. Our collaboration with these organisations has resulted in impactful conversations surrounding education, equity and gender being broadcasted through radio, which remains the biggest and most influential media in Rwanda.

Our goal of increasing girls’ access to education is also advanced by establishing youth centres in the schools, where remedial programmes will engage the target audience of the project. However, operating these programmes has been put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic and closure of schools. Instead, marginalised girls have been taught by tutoring and through educational programmes over the radio. The pandemic has had severe implications on the execution of the project and to ameliorate this, another 150 schools are to be included in the program. Moreover, around 300 teachers at these 150 schools will be trained in the remedial programmes to escalate the project’s approach and to better reach its target audience.


The project locations are selected by UNICEF, in coordination with the Rwandan Ministry of Education, through an equity-based approach that helps identify the most deprived and remote sectors, with indicators of significant gender disparity in education.