October 5, is World Teachers’ Day and Rwanda joins the rest of the world to commemorate the day for the sake of the noble job done by these civil servants.
Despite their great efforts and sacrifices, teachers are rarely appreciated and often been forced to quit their careers due to the pittance they are paid.
Below is an exclusive interview of one Rwandan teacher who has withstood the challenges and kept her career.
TNT: Tell us about yourself.
Teacher: My name is Annet Mutamuriza and I’m the founder of King David Senior Secondary school. The school started in 1996 with 19 students and I was the only teacher at the time.
Initially, it was in Remera (Giporoso), where I had rented two rooms we offered only two sections, Accountancy and Secretarial studies meant for a diploma course and not secondary school education.
The number has since increased from 19 to 104 students and changed from a diploma course institute to secondary school level with a qualified and sufficient staff. Due to the increasing number of students, we decided to start a Day and Boarding sections both of which are doing well.
TNT: How long have you been in the teaching field?
Teacher: It’s now fifteen years of experience since I joined the field and I don’t have plans of abandoning my career.
TNT: What do you have to say about teaching in general?
Teacher: Generally speaking, teaching is not an easy task, especially in this country. It calls for sacrifice and commitment, and that is why only a few have managed to persevere with the challenges.
The cost of living in Kigali is abnormally high yet teachers’ salaries are always the lowest. That is why many decide to quit the career for greener pastures.
This has led to poor performances, and many half-baked products have been witnessed in different fields. For instance, many students at Kigali Institute of Education (KIE) will hardly practice their profession, or feel proud of their careers because they are paid too little as compared to their colleagues in different fields.
TNT: Did you know about Teacher’s Day?
Teacher: Oh yes, I did! It’s the international day for teachers across the world.
TNT: Do we have a reason to celebrate?
Teacher: Yes we do, we are celebrating the efforts and commitment of teachers across the world. I suppose we have a reason to celebrate because we greatly commit ourselves, and yet we are paid less as compared to other civil servants in the country.
But still, somehow, somewhere we are consoled, because at least when you go somewhere, you cannot fail to find one or two of your former students doing great in different fields.
And without hesitation, teaching is a noble professional, and that is why we have to celebrate and feel proud of what we are practicing.
TNT: What does Rwanda as a country have to celebrate?
Teacher: Of late, the government has motivated teachers by increasing their salaries. The government has also introduced ICT in all schools in the country, even in Primary schools, which is actually a great initiative for the country’s development. Government’s contribution to schools is really great.
A few years ago, the government used to hire professional teachers from neighbouring countries like Kenya, Uganda, and Democratic Republic of Congo. But today, it has created teacher training institutions and colleges.
Government managed to design a uniform syllabus for both Anglophone and Francophone sections, thus making it easier for schools with both sections which also helped students to study well. As a result, the education sector has improved, unlike those days when the sector was working in isolation.
Indeed Rwandans had a reason to celebrate we have the potential to fight illiteracy and ignorance. During the early 90s, a big number of Rwandans was uneducated and this provided an opportunity for genocide perpetrators to use them.
As teachers regardless of all the challenges we meet, we are overwhelmed to see our students succeeding in life, and actually this is always every teacher’s dream.
TNT: What specific challenges do teachers face?
Teacher: The most prevailing one is poverty. Though the government had tried to raise our salaries, taxes were also increased, making no difference.
Making it the same old song of professional teachers abandoning their career for greener pasture and most of those who have persisted are unprofessional, but only looking for survival.
TNT: Do you have a teacher’s union in the country?
Teacher: Yes, it is there. It was officially launched in April this year. The government is planning to open a savings scheme on the national level, and I’m sure we shall benefit from it.
TNT: What challenges have you met as an individual?
Teacher: The challenges are many, though different. The main challenge is the lack of financial capacity to allow us to fully exercise our career.
For instance, I would like to pay my staff enough salaries, because each has responsibilities to address, and to equip the school with standard and enough facilities, but I cannot because I don’t have the capacity. Again, sometimes we experience indiscipline cases, given the different backgrounds that children come from.
Here, we have to be careful when handling their cases, because most of them are orphans of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, and orphans of other causes. The school administration tries its best to avoid doing anything that can cause trauma and regret to our action.
TNT: How do you overcome such challenges?
Teacher: My God helps me to overcome such problems. I always pray to God to help the school succeed, and I’m sure He is by my side.
In this school, unlike in other schools, everyone is in charge of discipline, because we are in a campaign of creating a favourable and conducive environment each one of us. Basically, there are no other tricks I use to overcome my administrative challenges.
TNT: What are your best moments?
Teacher: Oh my God! The question is really interesting. In 2006, one of our students was announced the best in the whole country in Accountants.
I was overwhelmed and really thanked my God. And this year, the school was nominated the best in cleanness and smartness in Kicukiro district. I was so much excited!
Again, I remember one day I met one lecturer from the School of Finance and Banking (SFB). He told me that almost half of his class (second year), are products of King David Academy and that they are doing well!
TNT: What are your worst moments?
Teacher: In 2005, students staged a strike at school. It was terrible! I remember, it was steered by a group of five students who had been expelled from school due to indiscipline.
We caught them red handed behind classrooms taking crude waragi (Kanyanga). When we expelled them, they decided to storm the staffroom and started fighting teachers and everyone who intervened. The situation was awful that police had to intervene and arrested them.
TNT: Any regrets in your career?
Teacher: No, not at all! I am contented with the little I have and proud of what I am. However, it’s unfortunate that most people despise our noble work; they do not value us, little knowing that possibly without our effort, the country can hardly succeed.
It is high time people respected our profession, and join us in the fight against illiteracy that is hindering the development of our country.
TNT: Who are the best persons you remember in the country?
Teacher: Dr. Joseph Karemera. I think I will never forget his efforts. He is a man of integrity and a patriot.
I remember in 1996, there were very few schools in the country. He literally forced us to set up schools, but after new appointment, people started harassing us, claiming that we are not qualified.
Dr. Karemera was then the Minster of Education and used to help us both financially and morally. He used to provide schools with equipments and food stuffs, and would request us not to dismiss orphans, especially of the Genocide, urging that they did not have anyone to help them out.
I also wish to thank His Excellency President Paul Kagame for his efforts to support the education sector at the time.
I remember when he was the Vice President; he encouraged Rwandans who had capacity to invest in education.
He said, “It doesn’t matter where pupils will study from at the moment. Weather under the tree or in buildings….what we what is to help Rwandans acquire basic education.”
TNT: How do you start your day as a teacher?
Teacher: Since I’m not the Headmistress, I arrive at school at 8:00am. And my first stop is in the kitchen, to see what students will eat for breakfast.
Then to their dormitories to supervise the cleanness and I head into the classrooms to monitor whether the students are attentive to what they are being taught. And then, I finish my day at school at 10:00pm, after supervising the night preps, I set off for home.