There is no doubt that education in post-Genocide Rwanda has undergone immense changes and transformation for the better.
Some of the significant achievements include; high enrolment rates at all levels, improved infrastructure in schools, supply of teaching and learning materials to schools, liberalisation of the education sector that has resulted in the opening of private learning institutions, and many more landmarks.
However, on the other hand, quality of education in the country remains a big concern to anyone who cares or wishes to see the country leap forward from average to excellence in development of education.
Some of the present challenges include; low levels of academic performance, high levels of functional illiteracy, growing numbers of unemployable graduates, among others.
Indeed such concerns are very valid, considering the fact that education is a fundamental tool for national socio-economic development and for individual economic empowerment.
Similarly, we should appreciate the profound role of education as a major vehicle for sustainable and long-term development needs for any given society. I believe it’s the reason why the brains that framed Rwanda’s Vision 2020 made education one of the major pillars of this valuable blueprint (human resource development and knowledge-based economy).
In fact, a critical analysis of all the pillars of Vision 2020 shows that the success of Vision 2020 will largely depend on the quality and type of education we build for the current and future generations.
For example, it would be hard to achieve good governance, have a vibrant private sector, develop market oriented agriculture, develop infrastructure, achieve economic integration and attain other relevant cross-cutting issues embedded in Vision 2020 without capable leaders and well-informed population, which are all dependent on the quality of education that our children get.
This reminds me of the phrase I first learnt from my college principal that “no education system can be better than its quality of teachers”. I can as well say “no nation can be better than its quality of education”.
There has been so much concern about the standards of quality of the graduates produced by local universities. Whereas there is no doubt that there are problems at the tertiary and university levels of education, sometimes we need to judge these institutions of higher learning fairly.
Our good professors at university might not have the magic bullet to make the impossible possible overnight; bearing in mind that education process, like any other processing functionality, the inputs will determine outputs at the end of the processing cycle.
It is important to note, at this level, our educational system is made up of three main tiers; primary, secondary, and tertiary. Another important level which is often not accorded due recognition is the pre-primary school level (crèche and nursery schools).
This level is not recognised in the common (6-3-3-4) appellation of the Rwandan education system, although there are efforts to improve pre-primary education as a solution to solidify and improve quality education from the foundation.
From the aforementioned we realise that education system in Rwanda is comprised of various sub-systems (primary, secondary and tertiary levels). As such, it’s imperative to know that there is a functional relationship between these sub-systems, such that failure or a defect in one sub-system affects other sub-systems.
Between these sub-systems we have different players including; parents, teachers, government, donors, school administrators and students, among others. So, the big question is “who is responsible for improving the quality of education in Rwanda or who is to blame for the poor standards of education for that matter?”
We talk of graduates without basic skills and competences, graduates who can’t express themselves in simple ways, employers complain of graduates who can’t perform simple tasks at their places of work etc.
So, who will save our education and fix the situation –the government, donors, school administrators, teachers, students or parents? May be to answer this question may entail in-depth analysis, which is beyond the scope of this write-up.
But for the purpose of this article, we shall take a simple analysis and apportion responsibility to each one among the key stakeholders involved in education in this country.
These stakeholders include; the government, the donors/development partners, parents, teachers, education managers and administrators, plus students. As DEEPAK puts it “when you blame and criticise others, you are avoiding some truth about yourself”.
Next week we shall bring you the second and final part.
The writer is an educationist and publisher