Why do you take your children to school? And why are there many people going back to school after work In Kigali, and elsewhere in Rwanda and indeed all over East Africa? Asking the obvious? Perhaps, but not quite.
The hunger there is for education in Rwanda and the region is huge. But why? The commonest answer you will get is; we need an education for a better future. But better future means different things to different people.
So, how does education meet those varied needs? Strange but true; most of us are ’keeping up with the Joneses’. After all, humans, like other social beings learn through imitation (and often blindly).
Simply put, a lot of us do the things we do because others are doing them, so that we are as accepted or because the law demands that we do. We should do better.
Education is learning. This learning must be is both cognitive and value-based. It should instill in us skills, perceptions and attitudes that would enable us not just to use the knowledge we gain from the current education, but also equip us with ‘tools’ to find and create more knowledge, especially in today’s fast-moving world.
It is also through education that we must learn to discern right and wrong and choose to do what is right. As someone put it the purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one.
We should not produce robots but rather competent and confident individuals who are well rounded and morally upright.
People who can creatively and imaginatively formulate and solve problems. Then and only then is the education relevant.
Education, especially higher education, should develop the following elements; communication skills, critical thinking, creativity and discipline and morality.
The combinations of these elements reflect who we are as a people as well as our aspirations. For example; I have seen students in pubs and ‘groceries’ where alcohol is sold during the day.
And last week, it was reported that some students in Eastern Province beat up their English teacher to the point of knocking off his tooth.
The senior one students were unhappy with their teacher for teaching them English… in English! These are unacceptable scenarios.
They are not who we are! But before we lay all the blame on our wayward youth, we need to be sure that our educational system is right. Subjects such as religious education and literature would help in the ‘formation’ and shaping of these young minds.
We should not push them to the periphery. We must, must from the start prepare our children to be competitive in the world. Critical thinking would also help. Formal education must go hand in hand with informal education on this.
As President Obama says. “Through education, you ... learn how to learn -- how to think critically and find solutions to unexpected challenges. I remember we used to ask our teachers, “Why am I going to need algebra?”
Well, you may not have to solve for x to get a good job or to be a good parent. But you will need to think through tough problems.
You’ll need to think on your feet. You’ll need to know how to gather facts and evaluate information…Education also teaches you the value of discipline -- that the greatest rewards come not from instant gratification but from sustained effort and from hard work”.
These are questions we must ask ourselves as parents, educators, employers, students, policy makers etc include but are not limited to the following; what is education? What constitutes a good education?
What is its purpose? When is the best time to be educated? What are the essential elements that we should have in our education system? We don’t each have to write a thesis, just a simple answers to guide our actions.
While it is good to know what we are doing, what is better is to understand why we do what we do!
Sam Kebongo teaches entrepreneurship at Rwanda Tourism University College. He also is a Director at Serian Ltd that provides skills and business advisory consultancy services.