Stay hungry (and stay foolish) but watch your plate
WITH our growing government and private-owned tertiary-level institutions, the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) campus in Kigali, the promising prospect of more prestigious colleges on our soil, it is hard to question progress in Rwanda’s education milieu.
Education is the root of development: if Rwanda is going to be the ICT hub of the region, it may very well start off by being the education hub of the region.
Rwanda’s universities already churn out thousands of graduates annually: Rwandan locals and students from neighbouring nations. I believe CMU is taking a similar approach, and, therefore, adding momentum to Rwanda’s movement to capitalize on our brain wealth.
The presence of colleges like CMU will bear fruit five-fold. The obvious is the quality of education being delivered to Rwandans on the ground, and the prospect of hands-on-training to create solutions customized for Rwandan needs. In addition to that, by attracting students from neighbouring countries, tuition monies are poured into the economy – not to mention living expenses.
It is a reality that hundreds of thousands of Africans are boarding planes to seek ‘better’ education overseas; with institutions taking up base in countries like Rwanda, students from the region are likely to opt for the same quality education closer to home.
We receive considerable amounts of aid from developed countries: what if instead, a portion of those funds were invested in inter-collegiate cooperation between Rwandan Universities and universities abroad? The move by CMU is admirable and many more could follow suit if aggressively pursued, as was the case in Dubai (Dubai’s International Academic City) and Singapore; one cannot ignore the fact that international education is flourishing, so why not draw on this fact, and improve our education bottom line, stimulate economic growth and attract foreign talent?
But, alas, it is not all roses and honey. As we open up our borders to foreign institutions, it is paramount that there exists a well thought-out framework of policies that protects Rwandan universities. This protection encompasses issues such as school name/identity, faculty and professorship, research and development, to mention but a few.
For example, a school like CMU could have come in as a partner of KIST (just an example). This would require that some faculty positions are open to KIST’s qualified professors, research is carried out as a joint partnership to ensure that technical expertise permeates to the Rwandan education system, and that graduates are handed degrees from ‘CMU-KIST’. This may appear trivial now that there is only one foreign institution, with only two graduate programmes offered, but in the long-run, if many more such programmes are put in place, our education system will feel the backlash.
Given their long-standing history, or their reputations, foreign universities could dominate the education arena if allowed to exist as individual entities; this means that even if there are secondary partnerships, all credit will be given to them with regards to research or any other accomplishments. Down the road, local universities will suffer, as talented students and faculty will be drawn to the financial and research advantages offered by these schools. This risk of foreign institutions overshadowing existing brands (such as KIST and NUR) means that a win/win situation should be orchestrated whereby foreign schools flourish whilst developing local institutions, enhancing Rwanda’s academic environment, and raising Rwanda’s continental rankings in tertiary education.
I am not done yet… There is much that can be said about the repercussions to Rwandan culture down the road but I will not delve into that today. My point is that independence is very important – even, and especially in the education sector. There is a real threat of dependence on imported solutions to solve our problems if we don’t formulate a framework for how foreign institutions penetrate our education system. Not in and of itself pertinent to this article, Google ‘Academic Colonialism’ if you have free time.
Contact email: akintore[at]gmail.com