The Government of Rwanda invited all Rwandans to contribute to a national development agenda by forwarding and discussing different opinions though a National dialogue on how to develop our country.
These discussions and exchange of ideas, resulted into the national programme of action, in the year 2000; Rwandans refer to as VISION 2020 (V2020).
This National agenda stipulates the views and aspirations of all Rwandans, how they would want their lives to have been positively changed by the year 2020 and charts the route to take.
One of the six pillars identified for the achievement of the VISION 2020, the development roadmap Rwandans set for themselves, is Human Resource Development and a knowledge-based economy and under Article 4.2 (i) it is stated that “Absolutely crucial for achieving VISION 2020 will be to properly link education policies, with sector development and labour policies.
It is crucial to understand that the investment needed for the development of the secondary and tertiary sectors, will not be effective without a skilled labour force.
Apart from raising the general welfare of the population, improvements in education and health services can be used to build a productive and efficient workforce.
This will be essential for Rwanda, to become a sophisticated knowledge-based economy.”
This was geared towards addressing one of the major development challenges facing Rwanda which was identified as weak institutional capacity.
Article 2.2 (iv) states that “Governance, including the management of public resources remains insufficient due to lack of sound institutions and competent personnel. Rather than develop sound systems themselves, past governments continued to rely on foreign technical assistance that was both costly, largely indifferent to domestic long term needs and failed to build local capacities.
Although great progress has been made on this front, it still represents a significant hindrance to effective governance.”
The foregoing indicates the important role Universities and Institutions of higher learning in Rwanda must play if the aspirations of Rwandans are to be realized.
Fields of study and areas of specialization that advance and widen the country’s economic base and employment opportunities should be identified.
This will certainly mean that Institutions of higher learning will need to do things differently, and better than they are today.
The people of Rwanda identified a narrow economic base as a constraint to their national development stating that “for several decades, the mining sector was largely based on the extraction and export of Cassiterite from several mines and numerous surface operations.
Deposits of other minerals such as Wolfram, Colombo-tantalite and Gold do exist, but total reserves are not known”.
One would be interested in any Institution of higher learning that conducts study in Geology, mineralogy, Geo-information and Lithography so that by 2020 there will be a group of Rwandans who can identify and help Rwanda identify and utilize its mineral resources particularly adding value to the raw ores so they can fetch more revenue.
Agricultural, food and land production in Rwanda will continue to decrease, yet population numbers will increase and it is expected to reach 16 million by the year 2020. The nation will need to rely less on nature.
With the millions of cubic liters of water that flows from Rwanda to the Mediterranean Sea, there will be need to utilize some of it to support food production irrespective of the change in seasons or the effects of global warming.
With the initial utilization of methane gas in Lake Kivu, (the country does have estimated reserves of 60 billion cubic metres of natural gas in Lake Kivu), there is need to widen the scope of its use and application.
Is there a university in Rwanda that conducts courses leading to qualifications in Hydrology, Water resource management, Marine technology, Hydro-informatics, Hydraulics, or any water engineering course?
With increasing demand for land and decreasing agricultural production and productivity rural urban migration in search employment is bound to increase putting much more pressure on Rwanda’s urban centres.
This will call for qualified personnel in urban planning and management. Do the people who make policies and strategies at our Institutions give studies in urban planning and management the due importance it deserves?
Do they recognize the importance their role in preparing a better future for the people of Rwanda through what they do?
As correctly observed in many different forums, one of the causes of poverty in Rwanda and many developing countries is the export of primary products. In case of agro products, this becomes a bottleneck as the technology and knowhow in preservation for the markets is minimal.
It would be interesting to know how people at our Institutions of higher learning have prepared their students and Rwandans in general for the time they will be able to “produce for the supermarket”.
The above are few of the areas in which policy makers at our Institutions of higher learning can help the people of Rwanda realize their aspirations as expressed in V2020.
What is evident is that we are still faced with one of the challenges mentioned as one of the constraints to our development in V2020: “relying on foreign technical assistance that was both costly, largely indifferent to domestic long term needs and failed to build local capacities”.
Whoever goes shopping for people to guide our Universities has his/her terms of reference skewed and the results are people whose sale-by-date is long past.
Such people may not grasp national priorities, want their tenure to continue as long as possible and their priority is to avoid “rocking the boat” with policies and ideas that may seem nontraditional.
Such people may have PhDs that were awarded thirty or more years ago, never published, never carried out research and would be “non productive” in the academic world.
They are content to have a “soft landing” into retirement. Telling such people to align Academic programs to national priorities is a bother they would rather avoid particularly if they are paid their way into retirement as expatriates.
The achievement of Vision2020 will depend on the people of Rwanda; their education should in sync with the Vision.