In an era where all governments are fighting against poverty, particularly as they pursue their set Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), education is vital.
Today, not all Rwandans are able to afford all school dues as a result of prevailing financial constraints. Statistics in Rwanda show that out of every children who starts school, only less than one percent make it to University.
The rest drop out of school, and embark on agricultural tasks while others move to the city in search of odd jobs.
In order to curb this sequence of events and provide alternative avenues of education for Rwandans, the Ministry of Education through the Workforce Development Authority (WDA) has vowed to strengthen and expand Vocational Training Centres (VTC’s).
These will provide alternative education to school dropouts to attain meaningful employment so as to live productive lives.
WDA Deputy Director General Fatima Mukarubibi views vocational training as an important factor in the drive to enhance Rwanda’s productivity.
This she said will raise people out of poverty despite people’s negative mentality that continues to hinder its success.
“Parents need to stop thinking that a good child is one who goes to university and that one who joins vocational training is lost. Students from VTCs are able to get jobs just as their counterparts who join higher institutes of education,” Mukarubibi said.
WDA is mandated to facilitate skills development programmes that ensure hands-on training that is different from the traditional theoretical knowledge passed on by most educational institutions.
Since inception, the Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centre (IPRC) popularly known as Kavumu, located about two hours from Kigali in Rwanda’s Southern Province, youth have been equipped in various occupational skills.
The centre has trained over 5000 students and continues to enrol even more. The serene environment in consists of numerous lecture halls, student quarters and machine rooms that host the different classes.
Francis Muhizi is a 23 year- old a S.3 drop out who has enrolled for vocational training at the centre because his parents can no longer pay his secondary school fees.
“I am from Mutara, I heard people talking about Kavumu and the skills that they taught. I thought of the skills I would acquire if I decided to come because I knew that my parents could no longer pay my secondary school fees,” Muhizi said.
He adds that, “It’s easy to study from here because we are provided with meals and hostels to stay in.”
At Kavumu, Muhizi successfully joined the Automotive Electricity class.
“I have always fancied cars, and I am determined to acquire skills that will assist me to get a job later,” he said.
In Muhizi’s class, a make shift car and demonstrative equipments are on top of the table as the trainer assists his students to understand the mechanism of automobile cars.
The attentive students periodically interrupt him with various questions as they seek for answers.
The trainer uses Kinyarwanda, French and English because students do not share a common language.
“I will be here for as long as I am able to understand all these machines. I studied human sciences in school so it’s not very hard for me to understand all the new machines,” says Muhizi.
With a dream of moving to Kigali after school, Muhizi said that he is sure to land a job in an automobile company or probably start his own mechanic shop.
For other students like Muhizi the training centre will serve as a bridge to self sufficiency and a niche in the current job market.
In the ‘Machine Tools’ class a few blocks away, Faustin Munyengabe, a trainer progresses on with his lesson and this time, there are little interruptions.
The blackboard is covered with different formulas as Munyengabe makes an effort to explain the complex theories of machine functioning.
“We try all we can to make the training as practical as possible. This helps the students to understand the hard concepts behind machine operations,” Munyengabe said.
However, Munyengabe admits that training is quite tasking since students do not share a common language. He said that some are francophone while others only understand Kinyarwanda.
“Having all the needed equipments assists to make the classes more practical,” he said.
As a prerequisite of joining the classes, the vocational centre expects students to have a background of sciences and mathematics that makes understanding easier.
Munyengabe assured that as soon as his students graduate, they are able to work for any firm that manufactures tools and equipment or start small businesses.
IPRC’s Director Gedeon Rudahunga says that he is proud to see his students acquire the skills necessary to eventually provide for their own needs and contribute to the local economy.
“This institution takes students who have dropped out of senior three and are at least 18 years old. After enrolment we facilitate their training in a field of their choice. Their school fees are affordable and it includes boarding fees. Upon completion we invite employers to review their achievements for placement,” Rudahunga explained.
Rudahunga notes that though several campaigns have been made to attract women into the institution, very few have enrolled for training.
“I understand that some courses we offer especially engineering and automotive mechanics are perceived not to be lady-like. Women don’t want to be associated with them. However, we have beauty and cooking courses that still attract very few of them. It seems we still have to work on raising awareness to encourage women to join,” said Rudahunga.
IPRC provides training in priority fields like; electricity, plumbing, construction, publicworks, automobile mechanics, welding, cookery, machine maintenance, hair and beauty. The courses provide a platform for students at to compete favourably in the labour markets
According to Rudahunga, the school has four levels that were completed after 6 years. The students contribute Rwf45,000 for the courses, the most expensive is automotive mechanics that costs Rwf185,000. These expenses cover food and housing for the students.
The Belgium Technical Co-operation (BTC) is one of the partners attached to the institution. They have availed state-of-the-art machinery and equipments for practical training in the school.
“Our partners such as BTC have provided us with equipments that have made learning very interactive. As a result statistics show that a huge percentage of our students have good jobs,” Rudahunga affirms.
Against this background, Rwanda’s youths who have dropped out of school are encouraged to go to VTC’s in order to be trained on relevant skills for the evolving needs of employers as they contribute to the country’s economic development.