To improve health care and education, we must change mindset and priorities

In his final address at the end of Umushikirano 2018, President Kagame challenged the complacency in all of us Rwandans with regards to health care and education.

He said that we should not settle for status quo, and in relation to childhood malnutrition, which is still at an unacceptably high level, the President called for urgent action to solve the problem at “a record breaking time”.

To my surprise these important appeals to the broader population did not go viral on social media or make headlines in the press. Why is this? What take-home messages from Umushikirano 2018 could have been more important than these ones underscored by the President in his final remarks? When monitoring social media such as Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag#Umushikirano2018 almost no mentions of these issues can be found.

I wonder what the perception of Rwandan health care and education is among the population of our own country.

 Yes, we have come a long way in the last twenty years, and things are certainly getting better in many areas, but we are also a country with high ambitions and a sentiment of success already achieved.

In my opinion, we should aim a lot higher than our current situation. We should foster a culture of appreciating the gains made, but also be restless to improve further, to push the boundaries towards even better results in education and less countrymen lost to disease.

One might wonder, why it is important for the general public to take notice, and get involved in these developments. Isn’t it the responsibility of the local and national government to ensure that our population has access to high quality education and health care for all?

In my opinion, all members of our society have a responsibility to contribute to improving our country. By expecting more and questioning the advances made, we as citizens signal to our leaders that more must be done and that further improvements must be a priority.

Also, as a country aiming to develop into a middle-income country with a knowledge-based economy, we must be able to ensure that our population is well educated and have access to good quality health care. Otherwise, attracting the necessary foreign experts and investors will be more difficult, and filling the vacancies in our job market with skilled and knowledgeable Rwandans will be intractable.

So what practical solutions can there be. In my opinion, by building new and strengthening old institutions we already have, by monitoring their performance continuously and using such data to evaluate new programs and initiatives, Rwanda can take a lead in its own development and fill gaps as they become evident and use its resources in the most efficient manner, in relation to its own condition and population.

We need to focus most on the greatest needs first. As an example, to being strengthening health care and education, we can begin by elevating our teachers, doctors and nurses. These will then be empowered to elevate those that come after them, their students and young trainees.

With efficient knowledge-building programs, possibly involving expert volunteers, we can begin the climb towards a better quality education system and health care in Rwanda. Finally, as a population, we can no longer accept the status quo in health care and education.

Those with means pay a fortune to send their kids abroad for studies, or to leave the country for more advanced health care, while the rest of the population is left behind.

If this money could instead be invested in Rwanda, and our people came together to focus on making high-level improvements in these sectors, all of us would benefit. Rich and poor, we all deserve this.

As Rwandan citizens, let’s work together to educate our people and keep them healthy. Only then can we succeed in our ambition of becoming the centrepiece in the new Africa of the 21st century.


 The views expressed in this article are of the author.