President Paul Kagame often challenges the quality of our higher institutions of education. The fact is that, although we have colleges and universities, the graduates from these institutions are still not quite up to scratch. He, like many of us, envisions a Rwanda driven by a capable workforce.
When investors come into a country they search for local talent to spearhead their agendas. They want reassurance that they will get competent technicians, engineers and managers. Sadly, we are often unable to fill the needs gap.
So, to fill this gap we have to train our youth to meet the needs of the market. How can we do this?
A work force audit will quickly show you that the local education institutions do not provide the quality we are looking for: why? The schools do not often have the right infrastructure, trainers, equipment and materials needed by students.
The curriculum also being followed in these schools is not up to standard. The instructors are not as highly trained as we would like them to be; the best of the best often choose careers other than teaching because of poor pay.
The heart of the problem, however, lies in the student-teacher ratio. The ideal student-teacher ratio, practised around the world is at most 25: 1. Classes in Rwanda are packed; this becomes problematic especially in technical fields because a teacher can not meet each and every student and access their levels of need.
The solution lies not in closing these schools, or in sending our students abroad. Rather, we should strengthen the few institutions we have. The problems we face are not unique to Rwanda and by learning from other peoples experience we can address the deficiencies.
We should start by building the capacity of the institutions by, among other things, sending our college dons abroad for training and facilitating them to pass on their knowledge to others on return.
We have to encourage young people to pursue alternative professional training available in private collages, as well as correspondence programs.
We can then make strides, by partnering with the schools, parents, non governmental organisations and the government in purchasing the much needed scholastic materials.
While it might not be immediately possible maybe revising salaries will be the incentive that will make the teaching profession as attractive as any other.
However, before all this happens, maybe the private sector and governmental institutions should accept the graduates we have for now and train them training instead of just complaining; with training, our graduates are as competitive as any others.
The author is a journalist with The New Times