Quality education has featured in national news headlines in the last fortnight. While officiating at The Kigali Independent University last week, the Minister of Education, Dr Charles Murigande, said his ministry was committed to providing quality education right from nursery school to university level.
At the basic education level, substantial efforts have been realized in the area of school programmes (syllabi) review for both primary and secondary levels, establishment of teacher training colleges at diploma level, classrooms construction and provision of scholarship materials among others.
The ‘one lap top per child’ policy will inevitably yield dividends. What deserves comment here is teacher empowerment which hopefully will be realized through the newly created, Teachers Service Commission (TSC).
Under the leadership of astute educationalist, Mr. Emmanuel Muvunyi, the commission can achieve a lot in the area of teacher motivation. The examples of similar commissions in Botswana and Kenya illustrate effective management of the teaching force.
Teachers service commissions are the largest employers in those countries and shoulder the responsibility of maintaining a sufficient professional teaching service for educational institutions.
The commissions recruit and place teachers in public primary and post primary institutions. It is mandated to promote and transfer teachers to ensure equity in public schools.
In the context of motivation, our teachers service commission could work towards promoting teachers ‘in class’. Basic teachers’ salaries are comparable to their counterparts in public service but the difference comes with promotion.
An example is a case where one is employed as assistant secretary in a ministry. After some time the assistant secretary goes through the ranks to senior positions to permanent secretary, but teachers don’t have such job mobility, because administrative jobs like, head teacher, principal are few.
This problem has been addressed where teachers get promotion and remain teaching, thus averting a situation of removing best performers from learners.
In Kenya, a graduate can rise from graduate teacher one, to Graduate teacher two, graduate teacher three and even to deputy principal or principal but remains in class teaching. Usually there is performance criteria followed besides experience.
In that way you create healthy competition among teachers and reward performance as a way of maintaining quality education. The TSC operations should not be seen as contradicting the policy of decentralization but as a way of empowering it through the expertise from TSC.
I see no reason why teacher A gets his salary on time while Teacher B does not because they happen to be in different districts. This problem could be avoided if TSC was responsible for the teachers payroll. TSC also constantly reviews standards of teachers employed, teacher training and advise the minister on such matters.
For higher education, conditions announced by Hon. Murigande at ULK should be adhered to if our higher institutions are to be regionally competitive. Indeed the core of good education is the teaching staff and academic infrastructure, especially libraries.
The report by Parliamentary Committee on Higher Education was revealing. Whereas students enrolment for higher education has increased tremendously, facilities like libraries, computer labs, teaching space increased correspondingly.
This unfortunately is also true for Uganda and Kenya. If the University of Rwanda Library was found wanting, then other institutions whose library space and stock are obviously leaner, need to revise their budgets to address the issue.
Competent academic staff and their retention in our higher institutions has been a point of contention for some time. Certainly it would be pretentious to suggest that low salaries are not the main cause of the lecturers quitting, but there are other considerations.
Management of the institutions need to be vigilant and ensure that whatever little rights and privileges the lecturers are entitled to are not trumped on by sometimes incompetent administrators.
One of the public institutions has been without a Board of Directors for over six months. Lecturers are promoted by University councils or Board of Directors on recommendation of the senate.
In the absence of such an organ for so long, a number of people who fulfill the requirements for promotion to lecturer, senior lecturer or even professorship, do not get those promotions which come with more remuneration. That is demotivating.
To motivate lecturers equity should be a guiding principle. There have been cases where top leadership is drawn from outside the academia.
That is demotivating. Usually rectors and vice rectors are drawn from practicing academics of the high rank of professors or at least senior lecturers.
There is a story of a lecturer who was denied permission to go and present his research proposal and when he approached the Vice Rector in charge of administration, he was advised to present his proposal through internet.
Absurd `as it is, it demonstrated need to let professional lead in their fields. Lastly there is need for equity in remuneration for work done not tittles.
As an example; a lecturer who is in charge of continuing education is called a director, and just because of the title of director receives higher remuneration than his boss, the dean.
Because MIFOTRSA awarded directors car allowances; the director gets the car allowance but not the dean. The Commission for Education has a job of streamlining the anomalies.