We have a huge education problem: students are not getting an education because teachers are not getting enough money to stoke their passion for education!
Education in primary and secondary schools is getting a failing grade both on the wanted content, education and on the unwanted content, eradication of genocide ideology.
Two Ministers may very well have lost their jobs over the issues. A number of very smart people have been looking at the problem and the initial conclusion does not seem to require any of those high-powered and very expensive foreign consultants: it is about money teachers are not getting even though other Government employees with similar education are getting it.
Our teachers are de-motivated by this injustice and Johnny is not getting educated. Why is our Government treating our teachers so badly? Because the teachers are too many and our Government has too little money! You see, there are seven times as many teachers as other Government employees! The quick solution selected by the Government is to freeze all other employees’ salary until teachers’ salaries catch up.
In this column, we are going to suggest another way to solve the problem. Fact #1: Teachers want and deserve more money than the average Government employee with similar education level; fact #2: Government has no money; fact #3: our Vision 2020 calls for a knowledge-based society and that really implies a lot of teaching and training for both children and adults; fact #4: our primary and secondary schools buildings are empty after 5:00pm; fact #5: there are a lot of frustrated adults with limited or no education who would like to get an education and it is not available anywhere. Are you connecting the dots?
Is it really possible to design a system such that all the current teachers get more money than teachers who moved to other jobs like: mayors, executive secretaries, etc.?
Like Barack Obama says: “Yes, we can!” and in the process we may solve two or three other problems.
The idea: create in each school a business center focused on making money for the school by using its assets: teachers, buildings, land and its equipment; use the profits to pay more money to schools’ teachers. Teachers in primary and secondary schools spend their idle time drinking banana beer (they can’t afford Mutzig); let’s give them an opportunity to use their hard earned knowledge to earn serious cash using schools’ assets.
You are asking, earn serious cash doing what? Remember those “1000 telecenters on 1000 hills” I was advocating in this column several weeks ago?
A friend of mine, high in the Government, suggested that those 1000 telecenters do not have to be built from scratch: why not use one room in every secondary and primary school’s buildings? He added that we could even get districts and sectors to contribute one room each to the Telecenter project.
He is of course right: by organizing better the use of those buildings, it is certainly possible to free a room capable of housing 10 computers running Linux or Windows in Kinyarwanda. These telecenters would be open from 8:00am to 8:00pm, providing employment to retired teachers during the day and current teachers after 5:00pm.
They would offer: adult computer literacy in Kinyarwanda, internet surfing of Rwandan websites, collect and input weather data, commodity prices data for their location, advertisement for the local merchants, etc. The classrooms would be used after 5:00pm as adult education centers geared towards the fulfillment of Vision 2020 and as such deserving money budgeted for that goal; rich adult students would pay their tuition; poor adult students would need school loans to be administered by the Government.
An alternative payment system would be for schools that have land to let poor adult students provide farming services including: plowing, planting, harvesting and selling to local markets.
All the money collected after expenses would be divided among the teachers, making them millionaires. As they would be paying taxes on this money, it would make Rwanda Revenue Authority happy as well.
What is required to implement this project? Let’s compute it: $6 million to buy 10,000 computers; $1,000,000 to train 1,000 teachers in adult education and computer literacy; $1,000,000 per year for expensive consultants in monitoring and evaluation.
For each school, two teachers would make a bit more money than others: one would be adult education manager; the other would be computer literacy and telecenter manager.
How can we guarantee that our education will improve?
The money will attract high-powered individuals who left teaching for other professions; the performance contract will insure that incompetent teachers are removed from this newly lucrative profession; public and organized competition between schools will do the rest.
Shouldn’t we really look into this? $8 million does not sound like a lot of money for a serious step towards Vision 2020. For those who are hung up on the expensive cost of connectivity, please, see my previous article on how to lower it to $10 per month for each telecenter. It was titled: “One thousand telecenters for 1000 hills”.
How to kick start the project? Use Universal Fund money: it contains $4 million dollars that are not doing anything for the intended beneficiary, the rural folks who need both voice and data access they can afford.
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