Emotional intelligence is a very important thing; we Rwandans have a highly refined sense of emotional intelligence, partly due to our dense population and close proximity. The pains of our development are due to us changing from one mind-state to another.
Historically we relied on emotional intelligence; heavily subjective and reliant on instinct, backed up a body of knowledge made up of anecdotal evidence.
For example in farming; the local chief would use his instinct as well as historical references to decide when planting would begin or where grass would be found.
Now we are switching to what is called rationalism and empiricism; which believes that there is rational explanation for everything and that everything should be measured and studied.
The gut feeling plays a major part in our daily lives and people pay attention to that gut feeling. One of the first warnings I got of the global financial crisis was from a money dealer near Posta; he warned me to ditch my pound sterling that it was going to crash, I laughed at him but paid the price later.
This man had never read a flipchart, he didn’t know what PSBR or GINI coefficient meant but had a grasp of the situation.
In our lust for development we are beginning to over-value intellect; we revere and never question anyone with PhD’s or masters’ and we assume they know it all.
Sometimes this is reflected in our laws like the one requiring Pastors to have degrees or “amadiguli” as we call them; soon we should ask all comedians to have degree in comedy “why are you telling jokes, do you have a diguli?”
Intellect will never replace emotional intelligence, the two are complimentary. When we study it should be compliment our skills and ethical character not just to be able to use big words; in Rwanda we love people who use big words even when simpler words will do.
We hope that having a head of department with “amadiguli” will trickle his/her knowledge by osmosis down to the general worker. The truth is for the price of sending two people for a course abroad we could bring a senior professor and pay them $50,000 to teach a class of 50 to widen the knowledge base.
A houseboy yesterday made me laugh so hard the other day, he said “I’ve been in that man’s house, he’s very intelligent, he has several degrees I counted five on his wall, he has a red one, a blue one, a green one and two white ones.”
He was talking about the certificates of course; for some it is the means for others it is the ends.
That kind of general ignorance is laughable but tragic indeed; there must be a way to break through the general ignorance of Rwandan especially the ones over 30. The poor education of previous years as well as our tragic history has lead to some of us being insular and very ignorant.
I wish there was a way to puncture the general ignorance of the lost generations; you often see a child in Rwanda who knows more about the wider world than their parents.
We desperately need a mass adult education programme much like Cuba had in the 60’s; we cannot wait for the next generation.
We need some way of getting to the masses, in the past I remember open-air cinema with projectors where everyone in the neighbourhood would come to watch; the would be free movies but in between would be educational programmes about family planning, hygiene, AIDS awareness, and any pressing issue of the day.
Poor literacy can be a joke but it has dangerous consequences to coming generations; Rwanda has nearly half its population under 18, that means our literacy will rise as older generations die off but there will always be a need educate the older generations.
Some will say “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” or “you can take the man out the bush, but you can’t take the bush out of the man” but in today’s world it is to be condemned to a lifetime of misery.
Sometimes I see the looks on a man’s face asking himself “what has he got what I don’t have?” An accident of birth is all it took to send us on differing paths, my parents both went to school while some cousins were left behind looking after cows; such is the lottery of life.
The western educational system is designed like a factory to produce mostly vocational workers to feed into the economy but the African system is designed to eliminate ignorance and assist development.
However in Europe they have learnt to harness ignorance and use it for economic gain; in school, the clever ones go to university while the dumb ones go to the factory.
I have been in a factory for Rolls-Royce making turbine engines for aircrafts in factory; the staff was made up of poor uneducated working class whites, Pakistanis, Black from Africa and the Caribbean.
And yet they made precision instruments to the highest specification; we could open a car factory in Rwanda and have uneducated staff as long as they stick to the procedure and have supervising engineers.
After a while this uneducated worker has been trained to a high-level but by work and not theory and can gain qualifications in what he does.
We need to recognise and qualify the skills we already have because we are capable of anything.