Tomorrow most schools will break off for holidays to commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. This week has been characterised by teachers struggling to mark students’ examination scripts and compiling marks so that students can go home with their report cards.
Anyone who has taught in a primary, secondary school or university will tell you that marking examination scripts is one draining exercise.
This is made worse by the fact that the teacher-to-student ratio is so low. One teacher is responsible for teaching the same subject to hundreds of students in different streams.
As the term comes to an end, I reflect on what Education Minister, Dr. Charles Murigande said during the 7th graduation ceremony of the Kigali Independent University (ULK). Besides urging universities to prioritise research, he hinted that universities ought to put emphasise on quality education.
According to Dr. Murigande, quality education is best achieved when schools have qualified and motivated teachers.
I have realised that acquiring qualified teachers in Rwanda is not such a huge problem.
The universities are churning out graduates at much better rates than before and there is the possibility of attracting qualified teachers from neighbouring East African countries.
The challenge is ensuring that teachers are motivated enough to do a good job.
Motivation revolves around good salaries, good working conditions and other fringe benefits that ensure job security and a friendly environment for teachers to perform to their best.
I must point out though that the Government has tried to do a good job on the motivation front by periodically increasing teachers’ salaries and making sure they are paid on time.
Recently it was announced that plans to further increase salaries were ongoing as well as the plan to construct teachers quarters near schools to cut teachers transport costs.
Additionally, the Mwalimu SACCO initiative that advances loans to teachers supplements their efforts.
However, most of these efforts have been one sided giving teachers in Government schools a sweet deal while many of their counterparts in private schools face tough conditions. Apart from a few high-end private schools that offer better remunerations than government schools, several private schools are simply the opposite.
Problems in private schools include, but not limited to, low wages and delayed salaries. As this term comes to an end, you will be surprised that some private schools have not paid their teachers since the year began.
How then can we expect teachers in such conditions to provide quality education when their own survival is such a troubling prospect?
What can the ministry do in this case? How can the ground be levelled to ensure that teacher motivation is not a preserve of only Government school teachers?
This is where I believe the inspectorate of schools has some work to do.
Schools that spend more than two months without paying their teachers should be compelled to explain their financial situation and, if found bankrupt, then they should be closed or taken over by the government.
At the end of the day it is the innocent Rwandan students who will be stuck with unenthusiastic teachers yet they will be expected to sit the same exams eventually with those students whose teachers are performing at their best.