It’s now six days since fifty-seven Senatorial candidates hit the campaign trail to tussle it out for the 14 slots that are up for grabs – through an electoral process – in the Upper Chamber of Parliament.
I have keenly followed this campaign, both for those aspiring to represent different regions (Kigali City and the four provinces) and those seeking to enter the august House on tertiary institutions’ tickets.
Some candidates seem to lack a coherent manifesto. Some of them have dared to announce they’ve no specific goals to take to the Senate, but to work with their colleagues as well as the government “to carry on with the impressive job that’s being done already”. Others have practically reproduced the Constitution’s provision on the duties of the Senate, and presented them as their manifesto!
When I first saw and listened to this, I wondered whether such candidates take the electorate, and indeed the campaign, seriously. In other words, the nation has nothing to lose should such a candidate fail to go through. This candidate deserves no vote, even though they may be standing unopposed. Such people could best make their contribution through other ways, such as teaching, consulting or treating patients.
I have a few tips for those who will cast the ballot in this particular poll – members of the sectoral, district and Kigali City advisory councils. They need to make choices that will deliver mileage to all Rwandans, home and abroad.
Rwandans need concrete ideas that will help them stay the course and not rhetoric. The country needs to remain afloat in an era when the world is increasingly faced with scary uncertainties. It’s good that a number of the candidates are from the academia. The most pragmatic ones have promised to help create jobs, although they remain short on explaining how they intend to do it. They hardly provide the statistics about our education system.
The greatest challenge today and in many years to come is unemployment. Yet there appears to be lack of a systematic mechanism to constantly monitor this fast-changing phenomenon. Ironically, this problem has been exacerbated by the impressive gains the country has made in the education system since the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. The universal education system has meant that millions of children now have access education, with many upgrading to the university level.
Each year that passes, thousands graduate from the increasing numbers of tertiary institutions in the country. Little wonder, a country that graduated a paltry 1,900 for a period spanning almost four decades (from early 1960s to 1994), has churned out more than 45,000 graduates in the last 17 years!
Last year alone, 9,615 students graduated from both public and private institutions of higher learning inside the country; up from 7,682 in 2009 and 4,821 the year before. On average, nearly 3,000 more students graduate each year, with a handful of them, especially those on part-time programmes, guaranteed of a job.
Thousands of others complete diploma programmes, including 2,095 in 2009, while others finished post-graduate levels each year (294 in 2009).
Today, there are 62,546 students in Rwandan universities, and the figure will certainly increase with more and more pupils able to complete secondary education.
It is clear that these figures do not match the number of new jobs, although the private sector continues to grow.
Most importantly, our education system needs a major overhaul in order to help produce graduates who are able to take full advantage of the improving investment/business friendly climate, rather than those who have little to offer in terms of creativity and innovation.
Lately, there’s been exciting progress in the form of the recently introduced Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system, but this seems to be a solution for the long-term.
We need Senators who will not only help the Executive improve and accelerate the implementation of the TVET policy, but also to revamp the classic education system to make it responsive to the ever-changing needs of the labour market. To do that, we need quality Senators who will introduce and force through critical reforms in the education system.
A candidate who promises to introduce nothing new does not deserve your vote. Do any of them have a fresh idea that may add whatever value to the Senate? Give them a chance...