The events, reforms that shaped the education sector in 2017

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A student of mechanics explains how an engine works during a TVET expo in Kigali. (File)

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education”, Martin Luther King once said.

This statement underscores the importance of quality education and every country should strive to offer such education as it is only what they can give the youth as future leaders.

And every year, the government of Rwanda and partners commit to putting efforts together to improving quality of education.

During the recently concluded national dialogue – Umushyikirano - President Paul Kagame called for a “revolution” in Rwanda’s education system at all levels so as to nurture highly qualified human capital that spearhead the country’s economic transformation.

The President’s call came weeks after the Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente unveiled a seven-year programme in education to fill the skills gap.

The Government, he said, will prioritise Science, Technology and Mathematics, and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) courses, while promoting learning and use of ICT in education, research and capacity building.

Quality education that helps learners acquire hands-on training can help government create over 1.5million jobs in the next seven years, according to the Prime Minister.

In this piece, we take you through what transpired in the education sector this year; what the government plans to do to ensure quality education; what civil society sees as challenges, as well as the voices of the people involved in the sector.

Promoting mother tongue use in early education

This year, as Rwanda joined the rest of the world to celebrate International Literacy Day, it was highlighted that promoting mother tongue language use, especially in early childhood education, can to boost learning of other languages and quality of education.

Experts urgued that the African continent and other countries have made the wrong choice and still use foreign language in early education which is affecting their learning process and undermines development.

Isaac Munyakazi, the minister for primary and secondary education, noted that the society needed to change their mindset and beliefs regarding the fact that teaching in a foreign language such as English is the best alternative, yet it discourages the ability of children to perform well.

MINEDUC, HEC get new bosses

Earlier this year, Emmanuel Muvunyi was appointed the new executive director for Higher Education Council, replacing Innocent Mugisha who had been at the helm for years.

Muvunyi said he would work with other officials to ensure that the Council is conscious of the fact that people work in a competitive society and that education standards cannot be compromised as Rwanda’s young people can try to compete for jobs within the East African Community and in the wider world.

Early this month, the President also appointed Eugene Mutimura, a researcher as Minister for Education replacing Papias Musafiri Malimba who had been the minister for two years.

Mutimura committed to keeping the momentum, starting by examining the prevailing challenges together with his team and other stakeholders before laying strategies to improve the education sector.

He said the overall objective was to build on the existing pillars to improve the quality of education that would set new momentum of development agenda of making Rwanda a knowledge-based economy.

Rolling out an online the career guidance system in secondary announced

The Ministry of Education and partners in October rolled out an online career guidance system as a countrywide talent pipeline that can align achievements of education to career goals.

The major objective of the initiative is to help students choose a career of their choice, plan for education and plan for work, according to the officials.

It was noted that over 30,000 students are using the system now and more than 21,000 assessments have been completed by users.

The cabinet meeting early this month approved a ministerial order establishing the Rwanda Polytechnic Higher Learning Institution, under which technical colleges will operate, in what is seen as an effort to boost efficiency in the sub-sector.

The order will see all the current Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centres (IPRCs) operate under the institution in reforms that are akin to those that led to the creation of the University of Rwanda.

TVETs under districts management

Ministry officials announced that technical vocational training centres will be under district management.

Under this arrangement, districts will get budgets from government to do all the activities that were previously under the Workforce Development Authority (WDA).

This, according to the officials will ensure efficiency and enable districts to plan courses to offer according to the needs in their districts.

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Primary school candidates sit their final examinations. A total of 237,181 candidates sat primary exams an increase from the 194,679 who sat last year.  (File)

Campuses merged in UR restructuring

The University of Rwanda this year started merging some colleges in what officials said would improve the quality of education and ensure efficient management of the university’s resources.

Dr Charles Murigande, the deputy vice-chancellor for institutional advancement said the process will also impact global ranking of University of Rwanda with a target of breaking into the top 20 on the African continent in the next five years. 

The restructuring will help the university to have schools and colleges with the same programmes under one roof, officials said.

“We have colleges and schools that run in various places yet they have similar programmes, which increases the cost of operation and the time lecturers spend moving from college to college,” Murigande said in July.

The restructuring merged the two campuses of the College of Education - Remera and Rukara - and relocated from its Kigali headquarters in Remera to Rukara in Eastern Province.

The College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS), based in Huye, shifted to Gikondo campus and merged with the College of Business and Economics.

The College of Medicine and Health Sciences and School of Public Health was relocated to Remera campus. However, two years of medical school will be spent in Huye where students will spend time in hospitals.

Economics, Forestry, and ICT colleges shifted to Huye campus. College of Agriculture and Veterinary Sciences was relocated  to Busogo campus, while Nyarugenge campus remained exclusively for science and technology.

Rubirizi campus was reserved as a students’ ‘village centre’ in line with tackling the shortage of students’ hostels, according to the officials.

Varsities suspended

The permanent closure of five universities by the Higher Education Council over inadequate staff and training facilities left mixed reactions and was a signal that the council is becoming vigilant so that universities comply with set requirements.

The five universities that were closed are Singhad Technical Education Society-Rwanda (STES) in Kicukiro, Rusizi International University (RIU) and Nile Source Polytechnic of Applied Arts (NSPA) in Huye District.

Others are Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kigali and Open University of Tanzania that was operating in Ngoma District.

The affected students were advised to seek admissions elsewhere, but students and managers of affected universities said the decision was unfair.

HEC to manage student loans, bursaries

The management of government loans and bursaries for university students could soon be coordinated by the Higher Education Council (HEC) as MPs approved the plan.

The legislators in the Lower House agreed to assess the Government’s proposed amendments to the laws governing HEC and the Rwanda Education Board (REB) in order to place the management of students’ bursaries and loans under the former.

The mandate is currently under REB, which assumed the responsibility following a 2010 merger of former Student Financing Agency of Rwanda (SFAR) and other institutions to form Rwanda Education Board.

Gov’t unveils 7-year skills dev’t plan

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister, Edouard Ngirente, outlined the priorities under the seven-year programme for education sector before a joint session in parliament.

He said challenges to provide quality education that addresses the needs of the country’s development remain despite sustained efforts by the Government to address them.

He said the country still lacks trained workforce in many areas such as agriculture, mining, tourism, transport, garment, milk processing, and infrastructure, hence the need for skills training.

The government, he said, will prioritise science, technology and mathematics, and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) courses, while promoting learning and use of ICT in education, research and capacity building.

Candidates increase

The number of candidates who sat primary exams this year increased significantly compared to those who sat last year.

In total, 237,181 candidates sat primary exams an increase from the 194,679 who sat last year, according to officials.

Also, the number of students in both O’ and A ‘Level increased this year compared to the previous one.

In total, 142,305 candidates sat secondary school exams this year, representing a 6 per cent increase from last year.

O’Level candidates were 98,268, up from 91,492, an increase of 8 per cent. Of these, female candidates were 53,618.

A’Level candidates were 44,037, comprising 23,536 females, compared to 41,719 last year.

Experts push for research impacting policies

Experts from various African countries stressed the need for innovation and creativity to ensure quality research that would help make relevant policies to handle various challenges facing the continent.

They were speaking at the African Network for Internationalization of Education (ANIE) annual conference earlier in October.

The conference brought together universities from 23 African countries, researchers and other experts.

It discussed the impact of new regional and global dynamics, regional developments in research productivity, governance, leadership, new modes of learning and responsiveness to societal demands of Africa’s higher education.

English teachers discuss new methodologies

Rwanda, as a country that uses English as a language of instruction and a member of Common Wealth, hosted a conference in Kigali in May bringing together  teachers from across Africa and beyond to deliberate on ways to improve the teaching of English.

The meeting brought together over 300 participants from Africa, the Middle East, the USA as well as from the UK. It was held under the theme “New Horizon in English Language Teaching”.

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A TVET student performs an experiment. Under the new reforms, all TVET schools will be under the direct supervision of the respective district administration and not Workforce Development Authority as was the case before.  (File)

Civil society, teachers speak out

Civil society organisations hailed the government’s efforts to promote quality education but warned against the rampant changes of programmes, saying it is a barrier to stable education.

According to Jean Leonard Sekanyange, Civil Society Orgnisations Platform spokesperson, the government should also make sure that whatever changes are made should be planned ahead and that stakeholders be involved in decision-making.

“For instance, the UR restructuring was spontaneous, parents and students and parents were surprised and the relocation was not as smooth as it should be. The campuses currently have challenges, and some lecturers were affected because they were not ready. Our wish is that next time, the authorities should consult all stakeholders and inform them ahead, especially in case of new big change,” he noted.

Sekanyange said two years since the new curricula went into force, little was done to ensure that schools have new materials, stressing that this affects the implementation and hinders quality education.

“The new curriculum came into force but two years later schools are still complaining about the lack of new teaching materials. Normally, the curriculum should have been accompanied by the teaching materials immediately. Such mistakes should be avoided,” he said.

Sekanyange said at primary school level, the class ratio per teacher is still high and it remains a big challenge for teachers and students.

“The government should seek ways to reduce the number of students per class by building more rooms for students to learn effectively,” he said.

At secondary school level, Sekanyange said the school feeding programme should be effective  to ensure that all students are served a balanced diet.

Regarding the new curriculum, more training for teachers to cope with the new curriculum should be reinforced, he said.

Vincent Magambo, the director of studies at Nu-Vision High School also decried lack of teaching materials for the new curriculum.

“We hope all the missing teaching materials will be available with the beginning of the academic year to help the students and teachers comply with the requirements of the new curriculum as exams will be prepared based on the new curriculum,” he said.

“I also call for information flow to be improved at district level. As private schools we always have a challenge of being informed late about new programmes and policies,” he added.