Fresh engineering graduates need internships abroad

Editor, RE: “Over 100 agronomists to get more training in Israel” (The New Times, September 2).
Workers at a construction site in Kigali. (Timothy Kisambira)
Workers at a construction site in Kigali. (Timothy Kisambira)

Editor,

RE:Over 100 agronomists to get more training in Israel” (The New Times, September 2).

I wish we could also send our engineering graduates from the University of Rwanda’s College of Technology for internship in Israel or elsewhere. They could, for instance, increase their skills in such things as landscaping and constructing roads and building on Kigali slopes.

Why internship? You may ask. In USA and Canada, when a student graduates from engineering school, they cannot even call themselves an engineer. One has to work for two years in their field, under the supervision of an experienced engineer before they can get certified as one.

Yet, in Rwanda and other African countries, you come out from the engineering school, get certified and start supervising a multi-story building right away. This may actually explain why there are many cases of buildings collapsing here and there, some even during construction. Such cases have been reported in Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya where recently a 5-story building collapsed like it was built from sand.

I also understand that a building housing three ministries in Kigali has started developing cracks. There was also one case in Nyagatare where a building under construction collapsed, killing some workers and injuring others, including the owner who happened to be the engineer on the project.

In Africa, when such buildings collapse, we tend to put the blame on corruption and unapproved plans without bothering to take a step further to find out why the unthinkable happened. Even if a building was erected without a permit, it could still be properly constructed.

Therefore, the real cause is inexperience and probably lack of enough training received by our engineers. That is why going through a two-year internship becomes necessary.

If our civil engineers were to undergo internship, they could for instance gain practical experience in such things as underpinning a tall building, a skill—I believe—many African engineers have only learned in books but never practiced.

In North America, engineers dig foundations as deep as four stories below ground level, between four skyscrapers and without causing any to collapse.

Kigali is growing rapidly; we therefore should think ahead of time of the skills our engineers need to acquire to be able to build good quality buildings that will not collapse on us in the near future.

As we send agronomists to Israel, we should as well think of other fields that need advanced and practical skills.

Seth

 

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