The role of the Catholic Church in the evolution of Rwanda’s education sector goes back to the colonial era when white missionaries settled in the central African country. When the White Fathers entered Rwanda, they started to teach Catechism and reading and writing to Rwandans. The first school was introduced at Save (former Butare prefecture now part of the Southern Province), and that was the beginning of modern education in Rwanda. In 1913, they established the first Major Seminary at Kabgayi (former Gitarama Prefecture, now part of the South). Since 1900, the Catholic Church has built numerous primary schools in the country.
When Rwanda was placed under the mandate of Belgium, the Catholic Church signed a convention known as « the Jonghe Convention » with the Belgian Crown, which instrument entrusted the Catholic Church with the administration of secondary school in Rwanda. And Byumba secondary school was then established in 1929.
Even if it was the Catholic Church that generally managed part of the Rwanda education system, it had specialized in the area of training future priests. Minor seminaries (locally called petits seminaries) were established in different regions of the country, namely the Seminaire de Nyundo (1952); Petit Seminaire de Rwesero (1962), Petit Seminaire de Zaza (1968), Petit Seminaire de Ndera (1982), and Petit Seminaire de Nkumba (1988). The church also owns an inter-diocesan Major Seminary (Grand Seminaire), St Charles – Baromée at Nyakabinda (established in 1913 at Kabgyi). The church also constructed catechist schools, such as the African Catholic Institute ICA (1962) in Butare, Nyumba – Butare Catechist School (1968) and Nyumba- Ruhengeri Catechist Training Centre (1968) until 1994; Grand Seminaire de Nyakibanda had already trained 1435 students of which 403 ordained priests.
In addition to specialized catholic teaching schools, the church also invested in the construction of several general or secular secondary schools. Today, church boasts of 87 schools in the country of which 56 were subsidised secondary schools, 4 schools are public school under the trusteeship hip of religious confessions and one private Apostolic Training Institute of Kimihurura (IFAK). The church also constructed the Nkumba Catholic Institute for Applied Education (ISCAPA) located in Ruhengeri, but it has not been operational since the 1994 genocide.
Catholic schools and educational institutions are distributed in all categories of education:
v Kindergarten (nursery schools);
v Primary schools;
v General education secondary schools;
v Higher learning institutions;
v Universities (Université Catholic de Kabgayi);
The Catholic Church also played a central role in the promotion of education of the disabled people. It runs 8 special education programs for the deaf and dumb, the blind and the physically and mentally handicapped (at Gatagara, Butare and Gahini).