TOWARDS the end of the year, I was keenly watching Rwanda Television and realised that something had changed drastically. I am not talking about the general programming that is often characterised by sleep inducing documentaries about agriculture but more specifically the adverts.
RTV used to generally run ads by the big business entities in the country such as SONARWA, MTN, SULFO, and a few government-run businesses. However when I watched, I saw that lately many of the adverts are of private schools. The increase in the number of private schools has meant that the consequent competition calls for smarter ways of attracting new students. And this is where the advertising comes in.
The new schools have realised that students do not just drop from heaven but that there is some level of publicity to get the word out about a new school and what it has to offer. It is for this reason that we now see quite a number of new schools advertising on our ‘Network of choice’.
This is evidence that people running private schools are now clearly seeing the business angle of education and that they are not running charities. They accept that they need to invest in publicity in order to attract students. It is therefore important for the would-be clients to take time and do their own background checks on these schools so as not to be fooled by the adverts.
I have for example noticed that in the adverts it is very easy for the camera to zoom past the same books a number of times as the voice over tells you how the school has a ‘fully stocked library.’ Others use still photos to show facilities like the laboratory where real footage would have been better. Are they really carrying out work in the labs or it was just students posing with equipment before it is returned to the stores.
The trend of having schools advertise their service should also not blind us of the fact that the best form advertising for a school will always be the results of the current students’ performance. So those hoping to join the schools ought to take a keen look at how the school is performing at the national level instead of just falling for the new buildings with their new coat of paint.
With excellent results, a school would actually not need to do so much advertising and you can deduce that those that advertise more are desperate for students because their general performance is not that attractive.
For example here in the East African region, some of the newer universities are known to advertise so much while those worth their name never advertise but instead have to send away so many applicants and take only the best. I am sure you can guess which universities these are.
The trend of advertising will also call for better communication practices for these schools if it is all to be effective. This is because it makes absolutely no sense to fork out millions for a TV ad and yet when I call the telephone numbers provided I either get no response or I have to struggle communicating with someone who is rude or unable to communicate effectively in English or French.
If the advert provides other bits of information such as email addresses then if I send an email, I should be able to receive a quick response that contains more useful information in relation to my query.
The fact that business decisions are being taken to see that adverts are run also implies that those managing the school have a duty to do so in an effective way that leads to enviable results both academically and financially. It is useless for example to advertise your school and then next month we are reading about your teachers complaining about delayed salaries.