Beyond academics: What else do students need to learn?

When Bovary Eddy Inkindi, a student at Mount Kenya University, completed high school three years back, he believed that he had what it takes to survive competition out of school because to him, being equipped with academic skills was enough. 

After joining Rwanda We Want (RWW) he realised the essence of possessing skills beyond knowledge passed on in class. 

RWW is an organisation that trains and harnesses leadership skills amongst young scholars. It provides and teaches values of good leadership and shows the youth values of peace and unity.

Inkindi says it was after joining this organisation that he realised that there was more to learn.

“I didn’t know that there are other skills that are important, apart from academic knowledge, especially when it comes to surviving out of school environment. All along I thought I was prepared enough to fit in the competitive world,” he says.

Just like Inkindi, many learners attest that the organisation has been able to sharpen their minds, as most of them have been equipped with skills in leadership, business and other fields, and this has helped them tackle different issues in their lives.

According to Tristan Murenzi, the executive chairperson of RWW, there should be more than just class work because having young people who are critical thinkers and capable of designing and putting in place policies leading to sustainable peace is key to development.

What the organisation does

Three years after starting its operation, RWW now holds weekly sessions with every school they operate in. During the sessions, different lectures are given to the youth and members of RWW on various topics and it’s done throughout the whole academic year. 

According to Murenzi, Rwanda We Want was derived from the theme “Africa we want” of the 2014 African Development Bank annual meeting, which reflected a vision for Africa based on aspirations of African countries and their people by 2063.

The goal of RWW is to bring the youth together and engage them in positive and critical thinking so that they become a pillar of sustainable development of the country.

To date, the organisation has trained 375 scholars in different schools in Gasabo, Rulindo and Bugesera districts.

“The evaluation done after the academic year shows that 75 per cent of the students trained have developed a leadership mind-set. This means that by the time these young individuals are put in positions to lead in their communities, they will have knowledge of what needs to be done to meet the requirements of the people they will be serving,” Murenzi says.

Also, throughout the business leadership trainings given by RWW, nine scholars and members of RWW have started their own businesses and this, Murenzi believes, will contribute in their development and society’s in general.

“Those businesses and ideas created came as the fruit of the lectures given by RWW in the weekly sessions that were held in schools as stated above,” he says.

The organisation is also aiming at enlarging and increasing its activities throughout the country, so that by the end of the 2019 academic year, it will be operating in at least one school in each and every district of Rwanda. 

Why other skills are important to students

Diana Nawatti, a head teacher at Mother Mary Complex School in Kibagabaga, says that because the world has now become digital, moving along with it should be the priority for every learner and educator.

She says that through such organisations, our youth, who are the leaders of tomorrow, are helped and encouraged to be open-minded, which is crucial to them.

“To be able to create your own job as a fresh graduate is important because it helps fight the problem of unemployment among the youth. Such extra skills play a big role when it comes to this,” she says.

She adds that such skills also have an impact on not only the youth, but also to the community they live in and more importantly to the sustainable development of their country. All of this, she says, can’t be achieved if learners are only equipped with academic knowledge.

Echoing a similar concern is Paul Oga, the Dean of Students at Green Hills Academy. He says that when learners are able to be educated on what they need to know, it helps them be competitors when they face the real world.

Oga also says that it’s through such skills that students are exposed to the real world and expectations.

“Students are able to develop critical thinking as well as effective analytical and communication skills. These skills help prepare young people thrive in this technology driven world,” he says.

On the other hand, Aminadhad Niyonshuti, an English teacher at Apaper Complex School in Kicukiro, says educators should find a way of trying to instil these skills in learners at an early stage.

He points out that when this is done, it’s easier for learners to grow up knowing that when they go to school, it’s not just academics that they should focus on.

“When a student’s mind-set is changed during the course of learning, they will be willing to learn other skills that may not be necessarily class work. When this is done, it’s easier for them to learn new skills,” he says.

Niyonshuti says that parents on the other hand should be supportive; they should also learn how the world is moving and allow their children to learn or pursue what they are interested in.

Murenzi says that through such skills, Rwandan youth are trained not only to be good leaders of tomorrow but also leaders of today.

“What is more important is that the youth are trained and taught how to start taking responsibility at a young age. We want the continuity of the good leadership we have as a country,” he says.