When you look around you can’t help but notice that, very often, the wealthiest people aren’t the overly educated ones but rather the people who have put great effort in nurturing whatever talent they have.
In Rwanda, many schools have focused on what they deem are the most ‘important’ subjects like math, physics and chemistry. However, not every student is strong in these fields; many would rather take subjects they are more interested in like fine art, dance, music and literature. Speaking to various artists, they believe that this lack of support has hindered the development of our local art scene.
Music is thought of as a lousy career-Dj Tiger
Today 24-year old Tiger Ndoli, aka ‘DJ Tiger’, is one of the best DJ’s in town. He does numerous gigs every week and sometimes earns Rwf200, 000 from a single event. He makes a lot more than the average civil servant.
Despite the fact that he earns his daily bread from his love of music, nothing in his educational background prepared him for his chosen profession.
“In all the schools I went to, music wasn’t even something one could talk about. It is thought of as a lousy career. I later studied Information Technology in Strathmore, Kenya, but still didn’t feel like it was my calling. I had to build my career on my own,” he says.
Tiger, who sampled some of his mix tapes, said had he gone to a school that encouraged music, dance and drama, he would have been even better than he is now.
“Success isn’t only in academics and the sooner teachers realise this, the brighter the future will be,” he added.
If a subject is going to be of importance then it’s considered- REB
In East Africa, secondary school students not only have the option to study literature and fine art in both Ordinary and Advanced-Level, but the respective counties examination boards test and certify them. Sadly, this is not true for Rwandan public school students.
“Many of these subjects are on the curriculum, although not examinable. It’s not because they are not important because any subject taught by a good teacher is very useful. The predicament is that with the nine year basic education, there have to be shifts, some students study in the morning and others in the evening,” Dr Joyce Musabe, the Deputy Director General Curriculum and Pedagogical Materials Department in Rwanda Education Board (REB), explains.
She added, “These time shifts limit the amount of time a school has and for a subject to be examinable, it has to have been taught for a number of hours and so far, only the core subjects like Math, Physics, Chemistry and History are considered.”
However, even though the arts are not examinable, if a school approaches REB with these subjects on their curriculum, they are allowed to teach them.
Musabe added that all in all, the curriculum looks at a subject’s advantage to the country and region. “If a subject is going to be of importance then it’s considered”, she ends.
“I love art and craft, but most of all I love trying out new things”
When this reporter visited Kabuga-based Riviera High School, by coincidence students and teachers were in the middle of a rehearsal for their first dance and drama production called ‘Living the Dream’.
Juliet Apio, the drama trainer at the school and an English and Literature teacher, is the brain behind the production, which is scheduled for next month. .
Watching her with the students, its obvious that she is a great drama trainer and the students are rapt as they heed her instructions.
“This production is about the daughter of a lawyer who wants her to become one as well. Her aunt wants her to get married to a rich lawyer and yet she wants to be an artist. The reason we chose this play is the same reason we encourage dance and drama here,” she says passionately.
Apio believes that, if students work hard, they can find success in the arts.
Year 11 student, Vanessa Mukamwiza, plays the main character in Living the Dream. Just talking to her, she seems quite dramatic. Her words tumble out of her mouth in rapid-fire sequences, in a cadence that makes each of them come to life.
“I love art and craft, but most of all I love trying out new things. This play is making me realise I also have the talent of acting. Dance isn’t one of my favourite things but making people laugh is also another talent I have,” she said with a huge smile on her face. “Not everyone is meant for academics and so co-curricular activities really do help a lot.”
What is the future of arts in school?
Theodore Habimana, Director of TVET in WorkForce Development Authority (WDA) explained that art subjects are taught in schools and are on the curriculum though they are optional and non examinable.
“In the plan for the future, there is great consideration for arts though not in all schools, some schools will teach them and others will adopt with time. For example Ecole D’art de Nyondo is going to be allocated Rwf500 million to widen art talent and this is a big step towards skills enhancement,” he said.
7 reasons why arts are important
• They are languages that all people speak that cut across racial, cultural, social, educational, and economic barriers and enhance cultural appreciation and awareness.
• They provide opportunities for self-expression, bringing the inner world into the outer world of concrete reality.
• They develop both independence and collaboration.
• They make it possible to use personal strengths in meaningful ways and to bridge into understanding sometimes difficult abstractions through these strengths.
• They improve academic achievement -- enhancing test scores, attitudes, social skills, critical and creative thinking.
• They exercise and develop higher order thinking skills including analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and “problem-finding.”
• They provide the means for every student to learn.