Competition is fierce among technical and vocation training schools in Kigali’s suburb of Kicukiro.
Rwanda Tourism College, Kicukiro College of Technology, and Church of God St. Patrick Secondary School may be located in walking distances from each other, but each strives to offer the best to its students.
The schools offer courses in tourism and hospitality, business information technology, computer science to accounting and repairs.
The shortage of human resource in the fields and the high demand encouraged the government to persuade domestic and foreign investors to explore opportunities in vocational training.
“We believe it’s a big opportunity for investors because this is a new system that is being implemented,” says Pacifique Karinda, who oversees Human Capital and Institutional Development in Rwanda Development Board (RDB).
The national target is to have 60 percent of students graduating from nine-year basic education (9YBE) enrolled into Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system by 2017. Only 40 percent enrolled into TVET last year.
The Workforce Development Authority (WDA) working under the Ministry of Education, embarked on implementation of the Skills Development Programme (SDP) in alignment with Human Capital and Skills Development Strategy.
The progamme is intended to support government’s efforts to equip workers with improved skills by providing short-term training in priority areas and improve the capacity of the education and training system to equip students and workers with appropriate and market relevant technical and catalytic skills.
The progamme is also aimed at strengthening the institutional framework through which science, technology and innovation accelerate the transition to knowledge-based economy.
Basing on the current enrolment levels the country is still short of enough chefs, plumbers, carpenters, travel guides and technicians to drive its dream of becoming a middle income economy by 2020.
Workforce Development Authority (WDA)’s TVET schools development specialist, Eng. Charles Sekanyambo, agrees with Karinda for the need for investors to take up the opportunities available in technical and vocation education.
He says the positive change will be felt when the country starts implementing some of its major projects.
“People are aware of the needs we have in this country,” Sekanyambo said. “Most of our chefs in big hotels are Kenyans. We are planning to build an airport in Bugesera that will require plumbers, electricians and even pilots and hostesses. We need workers and there is nowhere else we’ll train them if it’s not here in Rwanda.”
But the challenge remains that TVET schools are not easy to start and are definitely not many investors’ cup of tea.
“They are not schools like any others,” said Madam Zulphat Mukarubega who founded the successful Rwanda Tourism College which has so far held four graduations for students in tourism, hospitality and business information technology.
Mukarubega says starting technical and vocation schools requires heavy investments. The investor needs to have the passion to build the country because financial benefits from the projects take long to materialise.
Entrepreneurs in the sector have reaped profits and at the same time helped the country achieve sustainable development in general.
Recently in an interview with The New Times, Mukarubega, said her institution started in 2006 as a small training centre, with only 5 students, offering only certificates. Currently, it has turned into a recognised private university with over 3,000 students.
“No development can be achieved in a country without education and RTUC puts more focus and emphasis on equipping our students with entrepreneurships skills to ensure that they become job creators not job seekers after completing their respective courses here because as you know entrepreneurship education is very crucial in every individual’s life,”.
She noted that the university contributes a lot to the government efforts of promoting good service delivery in the hospitality and tourism industry in the country through producing graduates with employable skills who will be employed in hotels, travel and tours agencies and various public institutions around the country.
She encouraged the government to mobilise foreign investors to collaborate with the local investors in improving the quality of education especially Technical and Vocation Education institutions (TVET) through investing in the education sector saying that this will help to achieve social-economic transformation in the country.
The university is currently operating in rental premises, but Mukarubega said the construction of a multi-billion campus at Rebero in Kicukiro District had commenced and that their target was to have at least 6,000 students in the next five years.
“I encourage the population to become entrepreneurs in the education sector because it will have a positive impact on their neighbours and the country in general, but they should know that this field requires someone who is not money minded but someone who wants to play a key role in the country’s development,” Mukarubega said.
The mission of the Ministry of Education is to transform the Rwandan citizens into skilled human capital for socio-economic development of the country by ensuring equitable access to quality education focusing on combating illiteracy, promotion of science and technology, critical thinking and positive value.
“They require a lot of money to buy equipment and you need to understand why you are opening the school and give that sacrifice since returns on investment won’t come soon,” she said in an interview with Sunday Times.
Nevertheless, many private investors see the need for TVET schools in the country as an undisputable opportunity for business.
Most of the investors are Rwandans but foreign entrepreneurs have also started to realise the potential, especially churches.
One Zambian evangelist, Bishop Joseph Ndashe, says there is no better time to invest in Rwanda’s education sector than right now.
In 2011, Bishop Ndashe convinced the United States-based Church of God World Missions to invest nearly Rwf450 million in buying and renovating St. Patrick Secondary School in Niboye, Kicukiro district. His church has also bought two pieces of land, one in Kicukiro district’s area of Gahanga and another in Nyagatare in the Eastern Province, in order to build more schools.
“We’ll never go wrong if we invest in Rwanda,” the Bishop remembers telling leaders at his church’s headquarters in Tennessee, Cleveland, after doing an assessment of the opportunities.
“We opted to go for professionals so that if the students fail to go to university they are able to use what they learned to go and get employment, that’s one of the things that attracted us”.
More investments in TVET schools are scheduled to start soon as more and more people realise the business potential of the education sector. Eng. Sekanyambo said that both the country’s largest beverage maker, Bralirwa, and a major furniture firm, MANUMETAL as well as the Kitabi Tea Factory are building their own technical schools.
The Rwanda Development Board has also registered Rwanda Film Institute as a new training centre in film production and the Akilah Institute for Women which offers courses in hospitality management and entrepreneurship.
Figures from the WDA show that the private sector has a bigger share of TVET schools in the country with the government only owning 87 schools among the 290 that are operational.