I remember laughing my grey head off when my son presented a test paper score of 6 out of 20, on the theory part of an overall test for a driving license. I was miffed but amused, too.
An Anglophone university undergraduate, to boot, and the test was in English?
The fellow insistently pleaded with me to take a look at the paper and when I reluctantly finally did, see two samples of what I beheld.
Question 1: “Every the road user must be park his vehicle according to the following:
a) Where there is enough visibility without any obstacle that can course any obstacle to be his vehicle
b) Where there is to be enough passage, etc.
Question 33: What is the maximum length of the trailer including the compounding device when the first trailer is pulled by an animals?” etc.
I insisted that the test was simple and all he needed was his common sense to make a wise guess at the correct answer. But, tell me, wiseacre that you be, wouldn’t you have flunked?
I haven’t looked at versions in Kinyarwanda, French and Kiswahili that, with English, are the official languages in this country. However, I am made to understand that the tests aren’t any more decipherable in these, either.
Correct me if I err, but I think these tests are set by the police. And if there is any department that’s disciplined and has the most competent individuals in these languages, it’s the Rwanda National Police.
It may not have many who are bilingual, trilingual or ‘quadri-lingual’, alright. But for individual languages, it has la crème de la crème.
In any case, in the improbable event that it wouldn’t have, there are many to outsource from other departments. This country is teeming with youths who can switch languages faster than you can change your mind. And their eloquence, in speech and in writing, is equal to the world’s best.
That’s not to say, don’t get me wrong, that the reverse may not be the more dominant among others, as the above quotes are witness. Still, there is no reason at all to allow for this laxity
Not even on the smallest kiosks, where I’ve seen some electronic bill-boards proclaiming to offer “pedicule” and “manicule” (manicure/pedicure) services! As for “Hair Saloon”, often by the Francophone (!), I dare you to find two that are marked correctly as “Hair Salon”.
Just imagine reading something like “….. Arrival at the site and seat taking. You are prayed by the organising committee to confirmed your attendance….” on a programme for an official function. Instead of anger, you feel relief instead that, God forbid, they didn’t write “sit taking” (with an “h” somewhere)!
You’d think some Rwandans revel in embarrassing their compatriots.
A people who have lived in literally every country of this globe and speak the languages sometimes better than the natives, why should they allow for this gross carelessness, irresponsibility, indiscipline, nay, utter shame, in tests, messages, speeches, anywhere? Why?
For a society that lived for centuries before colonialism as a centrally organized, civilized entity exactly because every individual observed discipline to the littlest detail, why so?
Gacaca community courts that shook the fundamentals of western classic court systems with their effectiveness were a revival from that era. Umuganda, Ubudehe, Itorero, Umushyikirano and other Kinyarwanda-tagged programmes that have won global recognition and acclaim are all retouches of traditional practices that were personal and communal initiatives.
Cleanliness and order in this country are not fads of this day.
Everything worked to near-perfection thanks to attention to the minutest detail.
Of course, lest we forget, it was not until today’s government gave the clarion call that Rwandans reawakened from the slovenly existence that colonialism and the two immediate post-independence regimes had sunk them into.
But, once reawakened, they swiftly re-applied themselves to their past positive conduct and practices and that was it. The rest was to put a few retouches of modernity on the conduct and practices and – bingo! – they were as modern as G5.
The more reason then that they should answer government’s call.
Having a government system that’s in sync with the populace, Rwandans should not dare disappoint. Away with shameful language, action, service, demeanour, the dirty lot!
They should deal with these minor details and give the government space to do the heavy lifting. Healthcare, education, infrastructure, foreign relations, economy, on and on.
And, perhaps most crucially, the enablers of all the above: security of person and property together with defence of this homeland. That no silly sot kills a Rwandan, ever again.
That from Sweden to South Africa, the Congo (D.R.) to the Comoros (Union of), USA to Uganda; that from everywhere no vile villain entertains the thought of ever again causing a scratch to blemish the skin – yes, the skin! – of a Rwandan.
That to whomsoever the thought so much as occurs is picked up like the filthy flea they are and brought to book, in this land.
That, for good and forever, this be a society of systemic cleanliness, order, health and wealth in total serenity as it was put on this globe to become. After the heavy lifting.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.