By Lilia Ormonbekova & Sid Shrestha

Kigali, Rwanda 26 Nov 2015. Why did the attendance rates in primary schools drop from 90% in 2011 to 88% in 2014?” questioned Phineas, 15 during the recent Reading Data with children event.

His question was prompted by an event organised by UNICEF and the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR). The African Statistics Day has been celebrated each year since 1990 in order to increase awareness about the important role statistics plays in all aspects of social and economic development in Africa. To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the NISR, children –the future of our nation-  were invited to participate in a “reading data” event as part of the African Statistics Day.

The children gather for a group photo. Photo: UNICEF Rwanda 2015/Mugabe
The children gather for a group photo. Photo: UNICEF Rwanda 2015/Mugabe

Over 50 children, including boys and girls and children with disabilities came from three different districts of Kigali City. Phineas, and his friends were not only able to ask questions to government officials and UNICEF staff but also provide interesting analysis and insights from their perspective.

In order to make data child friendly, NISR and UNICEF translated the data into illustrations. The purpose of the event was to make statistics fun for children and to engage them in discussions concerning different topics relevant to the development of their country. First, children were shown a statistical graph with related illustrations. Then they were given some time to think about it. In all cases, not only did the children immediately grasp the meaning of data presented and provided correct interpretation, they shared their opinions on both negative and positive trends in the development of Rwanda. It was inspiring to see both girls and boys being actively engaged, and children with disabilities sharing their thoughts through a sign language translator.

The facilitator explains illustrated data to the participants Photo: UNICEF Rwanda 2015/Mugabe
The facilitator explains illustrated data to the participants Photo: UNICEF Rwanda 2015/Mugabe

“In 2000, the mentality that girls should not go to school was still high, but today it has changed. Girls have the same rights as boys”, said Alice, a teenage girl, having read data on the link between mothers’ education and taking care of sick children.

The question on primary school attendance asked by Phineas excited the NISR representative who commended the participant’s attentiveness and courage to ask such a sensitive question.

“I am so happy our children are holding the government accountable for the issues relating to their present and future”, said Dominique Habimana, Director from the National Institute of Statistics and Research.

Following the session, the children were asked to paint pictures on where they see Rwanda in 2030 in line with the goals of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Children express their ideas and vision through painting. Photo: UNICEF Rwanda 2015/Mugabe
Children express their ideas and vision through painting. Photo: UNICEF Rwanda 2015/Mugabe

Ted Maly, UNICEF Representative, provided words of encouragement to the children during the closing remarks, “I commend your level of enthusiasm and active participation to learn about information on Rwanda and your passion to illustrate that through art. I am very impressed by the creativity I saw this afternoon“.

UNICEF is committed to support these interesting initiatives to promote child participation and learning for the overall objective – to offer children the best start in life.

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