We can only solve problems by first admitting they exist

The East African Community Heads of Summit eventually happened and at the moment Rwanda holds the leadership of the East African Community (EAC), the African Union (AU) and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF).

It is not a coincidence that Rwanda is now in a position to offer its leadership example to the rest of the region, continent and the world. All this did not happen in one day and days like February 1, serve as good reminders of the journey that the country has been on.

The first day of February was gazetted as the Heroes Day in Rwanda to celebrate the brave souls that put their lives on the line so that a country can not only be reborn but also flourish the way Rwanda is.

Some put the building stones to the country’s journey of resilience while others reached out and pulled it from the doldrums to rebuild what was so broken.

Others are continuing with these efforts to this day. It is a life long journey. I don’t think that in our lifetime there has been a story as remarkable as that of Rwanda.

At this point in time what is important to remember is that the struggle continues and there are many challenges yet to be addressed. However these challenges can only be addressed first of all by admitting that they exist.

Acknowledgement of a problem is almost as good as solving half of it. Last week I raised quite a storm when I commented about the language competence levels on display during the recently concluded Miss Rwanda contest.

I called for more investment in the education sector if we are to end the cycle of embarrassment that the Miss Rwanda beauty pageant has become. The event remains a top source of entertainment partly because viewers get to laugh at young girls struggling to use the different official languages in Rwanda. This year was even worse as the judges also seemed to be in the same basket of trouble.

To fix this some argued that the contest should be conducted only in Kinyarwanda but I argued that this would be running away from the problem that was before us.

Thankfully this is a problem I know quite well, having been in classrooms for years just before Rwanda adopted English as the language of instruction. The issue of education and the teaching of languages has been a challenge and remains one.

I was disturbed that instead of acknowledging the problem before us many wanted us to run away and hide behind patriotism through favouring Kinyarwanda.

What many forgot was that being a language of instruction means teaching and examination happens in English and therefore it is important that the language is taught well. In fact we should be happy that this beauty pageant brought the problem to the forefront for all of us to see and do something about it.

The government has been aware of this problem and made several interventions aimed at fixing it. The recent cabinet resolutions were further proof that our policy makers are doing their best to fix these problems.

For example the Cabinet approved policies aimed at improving teachers’ welfare, skills assessment, and career path advancement. From this one can tell there are concerted efforts to improve on the quality of teachers in schools which will in turn lead to improved teaching in schools.

For example the 10 per cent salary increment for both primary and secondary school teachers with effect from March will go a long way in improving teachers’ welfare and also the attractiveness of the profession.

One of the biggest problems with education in this part of the world is that because of low remuneration, the profession attracts mainly those who have not excelled academically to make it to their preferred professions.

We therefore end up entrusting the education of our children to those who are not even happy to be teachers. All the good students head to the more attractive professions like medicine, engineering and law.

This often explains the high turnover in the education field with many teachers only there as they wait to find a better opportunity elsewhere.

If we agree that no country can be more developed than its education system then we must deliberately ensure that the education field attracts and retains quality human resources.

We must continuously assess how our children are taught and identify gaps then work to fix them.

We cannot afford to let mediocrity take over when it comes to education for then the whole development process will be derailed.

Email: ssenyonga@gmail.com

Blog: www.ssenyonga.wordpress.com

Twitter: @ssojo81

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

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