When one looks at Vision 2020, it may appear like the year might come before the set goals. The thought of attaining Economic Development and Poverty Strategy (EDPRS) through building knowledge based economy or society given the rate at which children in developing countries fail to attain secondary education as a result of poverty which is responsible for failure to pay school fees, may make this seem quite unachievable.
However, what revives hope for Rwanda is that every Rwandan child is to attain lower secondary education. This is a significant step towards the vision 2020.
It’s also a way of imparting knowledge to a big percentage of the up-coming generation hence empowering them from poverty since it opens room for children to join vocational institutes to attain practical skills or continue to higher learning institutions.
Early this academic year, the Ministry of Education started implementing the Nine Year-Basic Education programme. It is aimed at enabling every Rwandan child to attain lower secondary education in order to prevent a high rate of primary drop-outs.
The programme is in line with other strategies for government to score the vision 2020 alongside the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS) through building knowledge based economy or society.
However, the programme has for a long time been one of the most genuine developments the Ministry has had to implement based on its foreseeable impact on the young generation and nation as a whole.
Although the delay can be attributed to the many equally important programmes the ministry struggles to fulfil in efforts to develop and promote the education system in the country, it can as well be attributed to some challenges beyond that perspective.
State Minister of Primary and Secondary education and key member at the board implementing the Nine Year-Basic Education, Samuel Dusengiyunva, said that the challenges to implement the programme were and are still categorized in three forms.
“The Ministry has been and is still facing challenges that include infrastructure such as limited number of classrooms, toilets, furniture to accommodate the expected high rate enrolments; lack of enough qualified teachers and unfavourable course of study.”
He explained that given the need for every Rwanda child to attend secondary education comparing the rate at which students drop-out of school after primary six, the number of enrolment was expected to be high hence the need to build more classes and opening schools country-wide to accommodate such a big number.
This also had to range with the availability of qualified teachers to professionally and effectively handle classes. The teachers are expected to provide quality education in order to rhyme with other countries in the region.
The above factors could automatically focus on the organization of the courses or number of subjects being offered. Understandably, some were not appropriate to future needs of students.
Such challenges needed to be handled with maximum concern to avoid embarrassments and failure that could distort the image of the programme.
However, despite such challenges, the Ministry has made efforts to implement the programme thus fighting the challenges to a remarkable extent.
“We have managed to start 765 schools country-wide to increase on the infrastructure so that schools can handle the number of students enrolled,” he said.
Reports say that this year, government schools alone have enrolled about 150,000 students in senior one only unlike in 2008 where both private and public secondary schools enrolled 288,000 students.
The Ministry has also embarked on a double shift strategy to effectively utilize the available classes and time, training teachers to qualify and specialize in specific fields to avoid teachers teaching many subjects which would be quite unprofessional.
However, although the Ministry has come a long way, it has much more to do in order to make the programme a success story in the country.
Despite the fact that more efforts are needed in all most every strategy to make the programme move on smoothly, the construction of class rooms has an outstanding demand.
This is attributed to the fact that students in senior one will join senior two next year, implying that students will need more classes as more are to be registered next year.
According to Dusengiyunva, the Ministry of Education needs to build 3,185 new classrooms and 10,586 rest rooms country wide.
However, the official said the cost of constructing a class room is roughly Rwf 10 million.
Last week, local authorities joined hands with parents and students of GS Runda Secondary School in Kamonyi district Southern Province to start part of the construction of classes.
Jane Uwimbabazi, a widow and parent of four, appreciated the programme and said it is high time all Rwandans realised the benefits of the project so that each one contributes towards it success.
“Parents should not lag behind. We should be able to look back and realize how hard it has been to pay school fees for three or four children in a secondary school. We have been failing to pay, so this is a great opportunity for us as parents. Let’s work hand in hand with government,” Uwimbabazi.
She explained that like parents of Kamonyi, every Rwandan national, young and old, should work hard whenever need-be to ensure that government efforts are not frustrated.
“This is the only way we can help government so as to be helped.
There are some parents just like me who can not afford to pay school fees or take their children to private schools yet we need to educate our children.”
“Children deserve a good and favourable learning environment both at home and school, therefore the construction of more classes is very vital,” Uwimbabazi underscored.
However, the parent advised and reminded fellow parents to give birth to a limited number of children urging that this will make this programme a success in the long run.
“When parents produce many children, time will come when both government and parents cannot afford to cater for their education costs among other demands.”
She also explained that students will always demand from their parents, irrespective of their (parents’) economic status.
John Hashimwe, a beneficiary of the programme at GS Runda secondary school, said that it is good for him since he will be attending secondary education unlike some of his brothers who never because the parents could not afford their school fees.
“I am fortunate that I am attaining secondary education which I never expected since I knew my parents could not afford to pay, having failed to pay for my elder brother.”
Hashimwe could not hold back his excitement about joining a secondary school since he thought primary six would be the topmost education level he would ever attain.
Although the young boy did not exactly know the initiator of the programme, he was grateful for the development and every effort aimed at implementing the programme.
As usual, for any start of development strategies many challenges will be faced, but it’s as well important to note the impact of the programme to national development.
As government struggles to have enough qualified teachers in the country so as to handle the increasing enrolment in schools given the implementation of Nine-Year Basic Education system, a success story is sure to unfold soon.