Walking around the leafy National University of Rwanda campus a few days back, wondering what in the world my column would be about this time, I bumped into a friend of mine.
Looking totally at a loss for words, he asked whether he could pay me to write an article. I dissuaded him from even mentioning such a transaction, citing my journalistic qualms and so on, and I asked him what was the problem was.
He gave me a sob story of impressive proportions. He’d just finished his four-year course the previous year and now he’d been trying to get the documentation, in place of his degree - which hadn’t been handed to him yet - that could prove to potential employers that he’d indeed finished his course.
But this simple document, known as a ‘tenant lieu de diplome’, which is more or less just a sheet of paper stating that the student had indeed finished his course and that he/she was going to get the degree in the coming months, was harder to get than, in the frustrated students words, ‘getting the degree in the first place’.
He’d go to one office then get sent to another. On and on he went from one bureau to another until he got dizzy from the effort. It was like the office personnel enjoyed giving him the run-around. And after all that did he even get his document? No. They told him to come back the next day, despite the fact that he had a job back in Kigali.
I have my own horror tale of the administrative staff of the National University of Rwanda. Not finding my name on a class list, I went to correct the error, not believing how time-consuming it would become at the end of it all. It seemed that the only person who could possibly help me out was out of the office.
“Okay,” I said, “let me wait”.
Well, I waited all day, and the next; one week passed and then another. It seems that the fellow that I was looking for had gone off to Kigali to attend some meeting. I asked whether anyone could just put me back on the class list but no. He was the only one who could do stuff like that.
]”But I have all the proper documentation,” I said.
“He’s the only one who could help you,” they answered back. All I can say is that it took me a long time to finally get on the class list. I’m not trying to put anyone on the spot - maybe I am just a little bit; however, I think that my troubles with the bureaucrats at the university are just a symptom of a larger malaise that the administrative corps in this country, both private and public, suffer from.
I call it the ‘CBT’ virus - ‘CBT’ standing for Come Back Tomorrow. This CBT virus truly wormed its way into the very fabric of Rwandan work society. I believe that this ‘CBT’ is caused by one thing and one thing only; the bloody bureaucracy that is everywhere.
Just to get something stamped, you have to walk all over; just to see an individual, you have to stand around his office all day, no matter whether it’s a simple wish you’d like fulfilled. It’s surprising just how many things need to be done by hand in this country.
I mean, we always talk about how Information Technology will make everything more efficient and how this nation is in the forefront of this trend [at least in this region anyway]. But here is my question; if this is indeed true, then why does everything take such a long time?
Maybe it’s because we aren’t as tech savvy as we pretend to be. For example, here at the national university, almost all information is written down on paper and stored in file folders. Woe unto you if you want a document that’s supposed to be in the archives.
You’ll get a ‘CBT’ pronto. Personally, I believe that the only reason there is the ‘CBT’ virus happens to exist is because people are still doing the tasks that machines can do better. With a simple computerized system, you wouldn’t have to depend on the good will of a bunch of grumpy people [who often have a God-complex anyway].