Why Education For All is critical

Rwanda has implemented key reforms in the education sector, despite high population growth and financial constraints, thanks to the political will combined with participatory practical measures.

Since the RPF-Inkotanyi stopped the Genocide against the Tutsi two decades ago, Rwanda put an end to a century long discriminatory education. It achieved universal basic education and education for all, as a prerequisite for sustainable quality education.

During his speeches on the campaign trail ahead of the just concluded elections, President Paul Kagame emphasised the importance of inclusive governance for sustainable development.

He said that; “if you want to move faster, you go alone, and if you want to move longer, you go with others”.

This equally applies to the education sector.

The reality is that; an educated citizenry has a critical thinking that can sustain itself and, out of the quantity can emerge the sustainable quality.

The Flemish Association for Development Cooperation and Technical Assistance (VVOB) defined “quality education” as one “that provides all learners with capabilities they require to become economically productive, develop sustainable livelihoods, contribute to peaceful and democratic societies and enhance individual well-being”.

The Education For All: Global Monitoring Report (2005) highlighted two principles that help define quality in education; learners’ cognitive development as the major explicit objective of all education systems and, promotion of values and attitudes of responsible citizenship and in nurturing creative and emotional development.

According to UNICEF (2000), quality education includes learners who are healthy, well-nourished and ready to participate and learn, and supported in learning by their families and communities.

It also considers environment that is healthy, safe, protective and gender-sensitive, and provide adequate resources and facilities.

Finally; the content that is reflected in relevant curricula and materials for the acquisition of basic skills, especially in the areas of literacy, numeracy and skills for life and knowledge in such areas as gender, health, nutrition, HIV/AIDS prevention and peace.

Education is a complex system embedded in a political, cultural, and economic context and; these dimensions are interdependent and influencing each other.

What makes Rwanda unique in governance makes it also unique in education: the history of Rwanda sets a unique context and unique solutions.

Providing education services for all in a resource-constrained environment is one of the major challenges.

Before the RPF-Inkotanyi came to power, Rwanda’s education was a privilege for only a few and left out the majority of citizenry, especially girls and women, discrimination based on regions and the so-called ethnic groups notwithstanding.

The journey to quality education starts with an inclusive education system that leaves no one behind, with equal rights and opportunities. That is now, undoubtedly, a positive reality. RPF-Inkotanyi deserves credit.

Another step was to build a critical mass of empowered citizenry, which thinks critically to understand the challenges they have and can decide on their own for their life.

Education for all and universal basic education bore many effects. Child labour has been shrinking because of the increasingly higher school age enrolment, and fewer under 18 age pregnancy cases are recorded because of critical thinking.

Communities and schools operate school feeding programmes with local resources and provide healthy meals. Fighting against malnutrition, especially amongst school children, has intensified, and needy children receive milk and fortified blended foods.

From 2003 to 2012, the World Food Program supported school feeding programmes in 300 schools. The Government took it over, and school feeding programme is locally and countrywide driven and owned by parents and communities.

Teachers are supplied with overalls while on job, while single teachers in basic education are facilitated with free accommodation. Young schooling girls are assisted with special rooms, and stigma against raped or single mother students has been eradicated. Adequate facilities and classrooms are regularly built, and teachers’ salaries are paid in time.

Competency-based curriculum was developed and introduced to address the issue of classic curricula, which created unemployed and unemployable graduates.

There are calls for the Government to determine criteria of eligibility for admission in university or any other higher learning institutions.

I believe this should be the responsibility of the institutions themselves – if they aspire to be competitive – or that of parents. Why should any institution admit poor performing students? Why should parents or students themselves enroll in programmes which offer skills that are not employable?

If the Government liberalised education, it was in good faith to ensure education for all. This is an additional fundamental human right to Rwandans.

Since there is a significant base, institutions should consider their admission policy to promote quality, and candidates should consider their end objective which, upon graduation, shall enable them achieving their ideal either to be employed or self-employed.

Quality education is not an end in itself, but a process. It requires political commitment, an empowered critical citizenry and community ownership.

Education For All is a reality in Rwanda, and a success story for everyone. All stakeholders should contribute towards professional and quality education. It is a shared responsibility.

The writer is a Kigali-based political analyst

The views expressed in this article are of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Times.