HUYE - President Paul Kagame, yesterday said that the government considers education one of the main pillars of development and will continue to invest heavily in the sector.
The Head of State made the commitment yesterday while addressing over 12, 000 students and staff of the National University of Rwanda (NUR) at the university stadium in Huye District, Southern Province.
Shortly before addressing the NUR community, President Kagame, officially opened a state-of-the-art ICT laboratory at the University constructed with the support of the Republic of Korea.
Addressing the students, President Kagame said that he was pleased to discuss the role of higher education and its importance to the nation, particularly the contribution of the university community in the transformation of the Rwandan society.
Prior to his speech, the Head of State had listened to the student representative read out the challenges the students at the national university face before he carefully informed the cheering students that despite the challenges, higher education has come a long way compared to what it was a few years ago.
“When we look back over the last decade, we can see an obvious steep growth curve in our country’s higher education. There can be no doubt that this expansion has collectively benefited Rwandans,” President Kagame said.
“But we must also be aware that growth of this nature brings challenges that we must find adequate answers to. For instance, physical infrastructure and the quality of education have not kept pace with the increase in student enrolment.
Retention of staff is a critical issue because of the high demand for qualified people in
different areas,” he added
The President, however, said that to respond to the challenges, there is need to
revisit the core mission of institutions whose mission is the pursuit of new knowledge - seeking new ways of doing things to meet present and future challenges.
He added that the crucial question for the nation and indeed for the universities is how to position themselves to meet the challenges.
President Kagame thanked the Government of the Republic of Korea for the continued cooperation between the two nations, and in particular, their support in building and equipping the new ICT School that had just been inaugurated.
The President called on the students to be innovative by taking advantage of the facility.
He noted that with such facilities, universities can be able to create a critical mass that is less reliant on government for all the answers, but one that will become the driving force of modernisation.
President Kagame challenged scholars to desist from the luxury of the so-called “ivory tower” but rather be “practical and in touch” with the realities on the ground in order to find solutions to the country’s challenges.
Similarly, he challenged the students to act like the opportunity-creating youth of the 21st century that they are, instead of being content with being spoon-fed from lecture notes.
“You, too, must abandon the thinking that things must come to you easy. Nothing ever does. You have to work for it,” the President said amidst cheers from the student community.
“This is the lesson we all learn from looking at where Rwanda has come from, where we are now and where we want to be.
No one - from people running government to young people in schools and university – can afford to think or act that things will come easy. We have to fight
for every inch we cover,” he added.
The President called on the students to embrace modern technology which opens up other platforms like social media, because within them exist the transformative power for the nation.
He again urged the students to learn to be self reliant as it is the only way they can ensure dignity for themselves and for Rwanda as a country.
Kagame affirmed the government’s commitment to continue investing in education, as a major engine for development.
“Let me say that Education is a priority for our Government precisely because without it, Rwanda will not achieve our development objectives, and indeed our broader vision.
That is why you – the students and teachers present today - will continue to receive our highest attention,” he added
The Head of State held a long interactive session, mainly attending to concerns of the students and staff.
The Rector of NUR, Prof Silas Lwakabamba, said that the ICT school will be very important in training in ICT, represents a large and Important new resource for teachers and students at NUR.
He noted that the structure has 11 laboratories with 400 computers and is the best of its kind in Africa. The facility was equipped at a cost of US$4.7m with the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) donating US$4m.
Prof. Lwakabamba commended the Korean government for the continued support, and added that more projects were yet to come, to expand the University infrastructure much needed.