I have just read your letter entitled ‘Practical Approaches Needed From Different Stakeholders’ on the debate about half baked graduates from the local universities and the larger issues facing Rwanda’s tertiary education sector.
This debate takes place in the backdrop of a heated discussion I had with a start up CEO of a very promising Rwandan engineering firm.
During our discussion incidentally we had a debate on the role of local academia within industry.
The CEO had recalled that the world renown Prof.Michael Porter had actually visited his company located in Kacyiru and he had among other things advised Rwandan private sector operatives to develop clusters in order to be more competitive.
In my argument I told this start up CEO friend of mine that for that sort of thing to happen local universities need to reach out to the private sector to stimulate industry-academia linkages.
And I insisted that to avoid a ‘chicken and egg affair’, it is the universities to reach out to the private sector. Not the other way round.
The local dons need to embrace a private sector mindset by opening up consultancies within their departments to offer practical solutions to challenges facing this nation.
In Kenya where I came from this is the norm where we have practically all the public and even private universities reaching out to the private sector in a similar manner.
That needs to be emulated by the local dons. The result will be a symbiosis that will most definitely be premised on a ‘win win’ situation for both industry and academia.
Sitting in the ‘ivory towers’ of NUR/UNR or KIST will not do these dons any justice. They need to descend to the ground and to embrace the change that is unfolding.