President-elect Paul Kagame will today take the oath of office after winning the August 9 election with a landslide.
The incumbent stood on the platform of his tremendous achievements over the last seven years in many sectors, including education.
Senator Prof. Balinda Rwigamba, the chancellor and founder of Kigali Independent University (ULK), sees a brighter future of education over the next seven years.
He pointed out the fact that the country’s education has been overhauled right from the lowest level to higher institutions of learning.
“We have free primary and (lower) secondary education, something you can find in very few countries in the world. This has helped every Rwandan child to attend school,” said Balinda, who represents private tertiary institutions in the Senate.
Towards a knowledge-based economy
He noted that the President’s campaign promise to increase from nine years of free education to twelve years was a major vehicle towards transforming the country into a knowledge-based economy as envisioned in its Vision 2020.
Balinda says that looking back at the numbers of people who were able to attend university and how the number has rocketed in the last seven years, there is hope for much more accelerated development in the sector.
“We currently have over 60, 000 Rwandans attending higher institutions of learning, compared to 2,000 before 1994 when the country was practically still relying on a single university,” he observed.
Giving ULK as an example, Balinda said that the liberalization of the education sector had come with a lot of progress. “Since its inception in 1996, ULK has produced a total of 9,432 graduates from at its two campuses of Kigali and Gisenyi.”
Students from private tertiary institutions constitute 58 percent of the total number of students at higher institutions of learning in the country, he said.
With this pace of development and the political will of the top leadership in prioritising education, Balinda says that education is likely to grow four-fold in the next seven years of Kagame’s leadership.
Complaints have been doing rounds in the recent past about the issue of poor quality of studies provided by the country’s higher learning institutions. Employers have been arguing that university graduates leave a lot to be desired.
On this, Balinda said: “Quality is something very important, but we need to look at it in a broad sense. In order to have good quality, it must start from primary school which is the foundation,” said Balinda.
“You cannot suppose that you will have a strong house when the foundation is not strong. So, it is important that quality assurance starts from primary and secondary levels,” he said.
The Senator also cited lecturers as a major factor in provision of quality education. “Even if you have the best management system and all the equipment and training materials but without qualified teachers, you can never produce products that will satisfy the job market which is the meaning of quality.”
He said that is partly why ULK has introduced a tough lecturer screening procedure where by a panel composed of experienced lecturers takes the applicants through standard filter to identify the top cream who are eventually employed.
“We have no compromise on matters to do with quality and we hope that all institutions adopt this kind of selection,” says Balinda.
Balinda reckoned that ULK plans to embark on a massive overhaul of its general academic programme.
The reforms will include uplifting the infrastructure, introduction of new and up to date courses, recruitment of qualified academic staff and building the capacity of the existing staff members.
The new courses will come in at the start of the next academic year, the university officials said.
According to the Vice Rector in Charge of Academics, Dr Rose Gasibirege, ULK has decided, due to the public demand, to introduce new courses that it felt were in line with needs on the market.
The new courses are the faculties of Economic Sciences and Management and the Faculty of Development Studies. The development will see two departments added to the current Social Sciences faculty which will be renamed the Faculty of Development Studies. The new departments are Sociology of Development and Governance and International Relations.
The department of Governance and International Relations will be instrumental in training carders and practioners of good governance and will also help in promoting scientific research in the domain, the official said.
The addition of the department of Sociology of Development has been motivated by the need for specialists who understand social, cultural and development challenges that governments and NGOs experience in the efforts of development.
The new departments in the faculty of Economic Sciences, namely; Accounting and Finance, have come in also to respond to the demands of the labour market. Here, where specialization in business studies will be emphasized.
Career Advisory Centre
As one way of tackling the problem of lack of relevant skills among graduates, which could partly be attributed to lack of carrier guidance, the University has introduced a Career Advisory Centre (CAC).
The idea was floated at the Kivu Government leadership retreat of February 2009. The annual retreat acknowledged that career centres in all institutions of higher learning was key to quality education.
The centre will help provide students with up-to-date information, and advise them on which most appropriate courses to undertake considering the prevailing labour market needs.
The University is among the most equipped in the country with four computer laboratories that facilitate in ICT studies and an internet café that is open 24 hours.
The computer – student ratio at ULK currently stands at 1:24. The text books-students ratio is at 1:25.
The University has a total of 195 teaching staff at both the Kigali and Gisenyi campuses, including four professors, six associate professors, 23 senior lecturers, 142 lecturers and 20 assistant lecturers.