The National University of Rwanda rector Professor Silas Rwakabamba laments the rate at which his institution has been losing its academic staff. Between 2000 and 2007, NUR was deserted by 100 teaching staff through resignations. The rector cites insufficient motivation as the main cause for the outflow. Low salaries and absence of attractive fringe benefits rank high among the reasons retention has been a big challenge.
He also mentions the long time government takes to endorse promotions, saying that the last time NUR conducted promotions was nine years ago.
Rwanda’s drawn ambitious path to development places education at centre stage. Recognising that the country had no natural resources such as oil or diamond, the leadership was still determined succeed. Among other measures which were going to be devised to steer the nation to development despite the lack of minerals was educating its citizens and equipping them with the kind of skills that would turn them into highly resourceful people.
That meant that education was going to be accorded far more importance than ever before. With the kind of emphasis education is now given in this country, the last thing one expects is a government university administration regretting it cannot retain its professors, the epitome of knowledge human custodians.
Talking about promotions, it has to be remembered they are normally accompanied by raising of salaries. And so it is assumed budgetary constraints are a factor in why they take long to be carried out. The same issue of lean budgets it can be said is the reason lecturers do not earn better salaries and benefit from other competitive allowances like housing and transport.
However, if the dream of providing Rwandans with quality education is going to be realised, one single element government will not afford compromise on is retention of qualified teaching staff. It is a straight forward matter which does not require a rocket scientist to fathom.
This nation’s determination to advance has quite often been rendered viable by the current government’s ability to mobilise money to pay for what it deems extremely necessary. Retention of qualified staff by universities is fundamental to achieving the long term goal of having a knowledge-based economy.
Also, when retention is made difficult by the fact that an institution cannot pay competitively, sending staff for further studies like the 110 NUR staff currently pursuing PhD programs becomes less meaningful.
This is because they are going to come back and be in Butare only as long as better offers will not have been presented to them yet. And that is if they all are going to come back in the first place, bearing in mind what they are aware will be the pay on return.