National leadership retreat kicks-off tomorrow

Officials at the 15th National Leadership Retreat at the Rwanda Defence Force Combat Training Centre in Gabiro, Gatsibo District last year. / Village Urugwiro

An estimated 250 senior leaders from central and local government, parastatals and the private sector will today head to Rwanda Defence Force Combat Training Centre in Gabiro, Gatsibo District for the annual National Leadership retreat.

Over the next five days the leaders will discuss various issues, including improving the quality of health, education, assess the progress the country has made and how to move it forward. Ahead of the retreat, some experts, civil society organisations and citizens have weighed in on what they would want to be discussed.

Improving health

In health, the sessions will focus on the recurring challenge of quality in health care services and the need to improve performance in service delivery.

According to official statistics, access to health care services has increased with over 85 per cent presence of health centres in Sectors across the country. The government is keen to establish health posts in each cell.

Despite progress made in access, poor delivery of services to patients risks to derail existing efforts in the sector.

In a concept paper issued ahead of the retreat, the government says that health facilities continue to face prolonged patient waiting times, non-functional and idle equipment, poor infrastructure, insufficient medical supplies, high turnover of medical doctors, and poor training of healthcare workers, which collectively contribute to substandard service delivery and misuse of funds.

“Better health outcomes through improvement in quality will require a deliberate focus on health services, which involves providing effective, safe, people-cantered care that is timely, equitable, integrated and efficient, while minimising harm and resource waste,” it says.

The discussions will focus on maintaining standards and ensuring excellence across all health care facilities, scaling up digital systems to support service delivery and health services management, ensuring a high-quality health workforce and awareness creation about Early Childhood Development.

The Executive Director of Health Development Initiative (HDI), Aflodis Kagaba, told The New Times in an interview that the retreat was a timely opportunity for stakeholders to discuss issues that are pertinent to national development like access to family planning.

“With the fertility rate of four children per one woman, issues concerning population and development are pertinent,” he said, adding that:  “There is need to work on a plan on how anyone who is of reproductive age gets access to family planning methods.”

He says there’s need to address the teenage pregnancies and remove barrier to access to family planning methods.

Kagaba also said that there is need for increased domestic mobilisation of resources in order to wean the nation off foreign aid in the health sector.

He pointed out the need for all stakeholders to look into how parents can be pushed more to emphasize good feeding so that we can eliminate stunting. Stunting impairs children’s brains, their immunity, impacts their education. It really requires every stakeholder to join in to fight this because in the long run, this will affect the nation’s future.

Civil Society seeks inclusion

The Chairperson of the Rwanda Civil Society Platform; Jean Léonard Sekanyange, told The New Times in a telephone interview that after several lobbying to be included in the retreat, his platform was yet to succeed.

He called for inclusion of the civil society into the discussion would add weight to the subjects at hand since they provide a different perspective.

“We have been lobbying to be invited and we have not yet succeeded but we are hopeful that one day soon, it will happen. Inviting our platform will shed light on some of the issues we encounter on a daily basis when it comes to government programs and we have input that they may find useful during discussions,” he said.

On education

Professor Eric Ndushabandi, a lecturer of Political Science at University of Rwanda (UR) told The New Times in an interview that he was looking forward to frank discussions regarding a language policy where both English and French can be used 50/50 especially in Higher Institutions of Learning.

“It would be great to see discussions on pushing for an education system that emphasizes competitiveness and accountability. A system that inspects and conducts regular monitoring and evaluation of school leaders and teachers,” he said.

The National Leadership Retreat, commonly known as Umwiherero, borrows from a tradition in Rwandan culture whereby leaders would convene to reflect on issues affecting their communities.

The objective of these meetings was to identify solutions and commit to achieving them. The annual national leadership retreat has become one of several homegrown governance tools that allow the country leaders to hold themselves accountable.