Secondary School
Source: EPDC

Read below to learn about the education system in Rwanda and the experiences your sponsored student may have during their academic journey!

The academic year in Rwanda begins in the fall and ends mid-summer. Rwandan schools follow the trimester system, with a 2-3 week break in between each term and a longer break between the end of one academic year and the beginning of the next.

Most universities begin their academic year in September.


Language of Instruction

Students are first instructed in Kinyarwanda at school and then switch to English in Primary 4. For most sponsored students, English is not spoken in their homes and is often the third language they’ve learned.

Secondary School

Secondary school in Rwanda is broken into two levels. Ordinary Level (O-Level) includes classes Senior 1-Senior 3, and Advanced Level (A-Level) includes classes Senior 4-Senior 6. O-Level is equivalent to middle school in the U.S., and A-Level is equivalent to high school. Students take national exams at the end of Senior 3 and Senior 6.

National Exams

Students must pass a series of major national exams in order to progress from Primary 6 to Senior 1, from O-Level to A-Level at the end of Senior 3, and to graduate from Senior 6.

Dream Leadership Academy

After completing Senior 6, sponsored students have a gap as they wait to learn their national exam results. From August through January, these students attend our Dream Leadership Academy (DLEAD), where they receive weekly training in leadership, entrepreneurship, discipleship, biblical literacy, resume writing, and communication skills. This program is designed to help prepare students for life after secondary school.

Post-Secondary Education

Based on national exam results, students may qualify for either a university or post-secondary vocational program. University programs in Rwanda typically four years depending on the school and degree; programs in the science disciplines (such as medicine, pharmacy and engineering) generally take longer to complete. Vocational programs typically last one and a half to two years and students graduate with a diploma or certificate in a specific field such as business management, construction, food production, or information and communication technology.

To learn more about post-secondary sponsorship, visit

The grading system in Rwanda is different than in the U.S. Students are assessed in each class and then given one grade percentage that averages their performance across all subjects. Average performance is indicated by a score of 50%, while good performance is indicated by scores above 60%. Students are also ranked in comparison to others within their cohort or class. They may elect to share their percent average or class rank in letters to their sponsors.

Students must perform well academically to advance to the next grade level at the end of each year. It is common for students to repeat a grade level, especially during their primary school years or when they move to a different school.


To learn more about sponsorship through Africa New Life, visit our Sponsorship Promises or our Sponsorship Frequently Asked Questions pages.


We have a co-sponsorship model for students in Senior 1 through our Dream Leadership Academy due to the higher costs of secondary education. To learn more about this model, visit