Last week, several embassies representing their countries in Rwanda bade farewell to Rwandan students going to pursue different courses abroad, including in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
China offered 12 scholarships to Rwandan students, the Netherlands 28, the United Arab Emirates 20, while Britain offered 15 scholarships through its flagship scholarship programme – Chevening.
Most of the students sent to further their studies in these countries will pursue studies that are aligned to what those countries are trying to promote as areas of interest and cooperation with Rwanda.
It is widely believed that education is the foundation upon which one builds their future, but quality education gives an edge for one to be competitive in the future.
By providing scholarships to Rwandan students, therefore, these countries are opening access to quality educational opportunities that may not easily be accessed at home.
When the Netherlands embassy was bidding farewell to 28 students last week, it invited some of the Rwandan alumni of different Dutch universities to the event. One of them is Rwanda’s Prosecutor General, Jean-Bosco Mutangana, who completed a master’s degree in law at the University of Groningen in 2011.
Mutangana has occupied various positions in Rwanda’s judicial system, including his most recent appointment, in 2016, as the country’s Prosecutor General.
He speaks well of the education he received from Netherlands where is also currently pursuing a PhD at Tilburg University on challenges and opportunities in view of emerging investigations and prosecutions of human trafficking offences in Rwanda.
“Netherlands is well known for its quality education in areas of law and agriculture. When you pursue education at universities in the Netherlands, there is hope that the knowledge you acquire would help promote these sectors back at home,” Mutangana told the departing students.
He is among the many high profile individuals in public and private sectors that completed their education from the Netherlands. Others include Judith Uwizeye, the Minister in the President’s Office; Didas Kayihura, the Director of Institute of Legal Practice and Development (ILPD); and Usta Kaitesi, the Deputy Chief Executive Office of Rwanda Governance Board, among others.
According to Elvis Mbembe, a Kigali-based lawyer who studied at Utrecht University, there are about 150 Rwandans who completed legal studies in Netherlands.
While it is hard to quantitatively measure the impact of the scholarships given to Rwandans, he said that the appointments of the alumni could be one of the many factors.
“This is something that personally I have observed overtime,” he noted, adding that most of those going for further their studies abroad are sent with expectations that they will build their capacity so that when they come back home, they are more relevant in different positions in which they are employed.
He also highlighted that most of those alumni are involved in a number of activities, including training students, supervising research as well as conducting research that contributes toward Rwandan policy formulation.
It is not only those that studied in the Netherlands. Graduates from Chinese Universities have formed an organisation to better pursue causes that contribute to the different sectors of economy.
Norbert Haguma, the secretary of this organisation, told The New Times that they were making commitments to say, “we want, for instance, to see solar panels being made in Rwanda a hundred per cent within the next five years working with Government institutions.”
When the British High Commissioner to Rwanda, Jo Lomas, was bidding farewell to the 15 beneficiaries for the Chevening scholarship scheme last week, she indicated the overall aim to send Rwandans to study in the United Kingdom (UK) is to support the country’s development.
“In Rwanda’s case, Rwandan students have to go and study something which will benefit Rwanda. They must come back and must use their knowledge and skills for the benefit of the country,” she said.
Lomas said that Rwandan students go to the UK to study various courses ranging from development studies, and finance, to media and engineering.
“You can really imagine how they contribute to the development,” she noted, adding that past graduates are in high ranking positions of finance, media and public service.
Stella Ford Mugabo, a former cabinet minister, is one of those beneficiaries. She attained a Master of Arts in Economics and Social Studies from the University of Manchester.
She believes that with such educational programme, one can never go wrong, emphasising why programmes such as Chevening are good for Rwandans.
“The Chevening programme targets Government and developmental programmes. What they do is identify what is missing out, when students apply, they are guided on what the Government is focusing on,” she noted.