Education is about dignity and empowering citizens to choose their place in society, President Paul Kagame said during the global education and skills forum currently underway in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
“Even if you have a problem today, eventually you should be able to stand on your own two feet. There is no dignity in perpetual dependency until the end of your life” President Kagame added.
President Kagame was speaking as a panelist alongside former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The panel discussion dubbed; “The Way Forward: What should be the sustainable development agenda for education? How do we achieve it?” sought to find out ways of going beyond the achievement made under the millennium development goals.
Addressing the future of education, Kagame challenged the audience to look beyond funding as the main challenge.
President Kagame added that contrary to popular perception, lack of finances was at times not the main challenge toward any development indicator.
“It is how you bring money to work and how innovatively you link the problem with the spending required. The balance will be brought about by fully understanding that it is not one party that is going to entirely find the solution but rather different stakeholders-public and private playing their part,” Kagame said.
“When we are talking about education, we are talking about skills, we are talking about the balance between job seekers and job creators; we are talking about employment. How do we leave out people and expect that we are going to address this particular problem?” the president asked.
Among the strategies he highlighted would be effective is renewing the focus on education toward quality rather than access through the use of technology.
“Technology is going to be very crucial in almost every aspect of life starting with education. In the vision we have for our country, we are looking at building knowledge based society and therefore building skills. We found that technology is right at the centre,” Kagame noted.
The President said that the country had chosen to forge partnerships with leading technology firms to be able to maximize technology’s impact on skills acquisition at an affordable cost.
Regarding the way forward beyond the 2015 millennium development goals, the President said that the only sustainable change is one that invests in systems and prioritizes ownership.
President Kagame added that building on the progress achieved will need to be based on continued investments and ownership of solutions and processes by the people on the ground and their systems of governance.
Blair echoed the President’s sentiments regarding education financing saying that the biggest progress in the sector was not fundamentally about the money.
“In education, money is half the answer to problems, wise management is the other half,” Blair said.
Blair further called for the replication of best practices in education in different parts of the world for global development.
President Kagame ended the day with a keynote speech at the award ceremony of the Global Teacher Prize where 10 teachers were recognised for their outstanding work.
The sacrifice teachers make
Speaking on his personal experience with teachers, President Kagame praised the dedication of teachers who despite difficult situation dedicate their life to educating children.
“Like many other Rwandans, my first experience of school was as a refugee student. Conditions were difficult, but our teachers went far beyond the call of duty, to ensure that displaced children acquired education.”
“Whether there was a building or not, whether we had books or not, whether teachers were paid or not, they kept teaching, and we kept studying,” Kagame added.
President Kagame added that teachers instilled values of resilience, responsibility and self-reliance, which till today continue to guide Rwanda’s work, including ensuring access to education for all Rwandan children.
Earlier during the day, President Kagame named Augustine Nyabutsitsi as one of his primary school teachers who inspired him.
The global education and skills forum is taking place for the third time since 2013 with an emphasis to the subjects of education, equity and employment.
The annual forum held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, brings together over 1000 high level delegates from over 50 countries.
This year’s winner of the forum’s signatory $1 million Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize is Nancy Atwell from the United States. The ten finalists this year represented Afghanistan, India, Haiti, Kenya, USA, Cambodia, Malaysia and the UK.
The prize is the largest of its kind and was established to shed light on the importance of teachers in transforming communities.