The current presidential campaigns have had all the candidates play the education bait by talking about what they plan to do once they are given the mandate to rule.
Education is a key sector in the lives of people and it can only be sheer stupidity for a presidential candidate not to have it as part of their election manifesto. The fact that it is a cross cutting issue in many other sectors makes it a crucial point.
Of all the presidential candidates making educational pledges, I find myself compelled to focus on the Rwanda Patriotic Front candidate who also happens to be the incumbent President of Rwanda. While campaigning in Kamonyi district, President Paul Kagame expressed his intention to extend free education from nine to 12 years!
The significance of President Kagame’s pledge comes from the fact that his presidency has seen free education steadily going up. At first it was the free primary education but recently, three more classes were added to the scheme to make it nine years of basic education.
The fact that the Nine-Year-Basic education has been successfully implemented without being pegged to election votes is something we need to commend.
This is because in all elections, the aspirants will say so many nice things they do not mean just to sway the hearts of the voters.
With the above record, I am compelled to believe what president Kagame has promised because I have witnessed the implementation of the Nine-Year-Basic education already. Many young children whose parents could not afford school fees for the secondary section are in school right now.
Anyone who has been to school knows the burden of school fees. There is always that moment during the school term when the bursar turns into a hunter moving around the school with a list of school fees defaulters who are put on the spot, forced to leave class and are sent home immediately.
Parents also know how heavy this burden is especially when one has many school going children. Paying for all of them at the same time is a really tough call even for those considered to be holding healthy jobs.
Education is a basic human right and therefore increasing its access should be the priority of any right thinking leader. Increasing access to free education from nine to 12 years is a very commendable gesture and a clear indication of President Kagame’s forward thinking traits.
We also need to acknowledge the fact that Rwanda is bent on boosting its economy by moving towards a knowledge-based economy, according to its Vision 2020. This can only be realised if more people are given the chance to access education.
This will eventually enable them to appreciate and be in position to use ICT facilities in their daily activities. All the ICT policies of this country are pretty worthless if basic education is not easily accessible to the average Rwandan of school going age.
The same efforts that saw communities contributing to infrastructural development required for the nine year basic education to take place can again be marshalled for the 12 year basic education.
More so, the involvement of the community quickly takes away any shadow of doubt that the 12 year free education is a feasible target that is not too ambitious as some may wish to say.
With free primary and secondary education for all Rwandans, Rwanda can then go on to attain a higher level of development since it will be armed with abundant skilled labour to run the economy. Rwanda’s skills gap will only be solved if more people have access to education.
Education is very important to Rwanda largely because the development of the country was slowed down significantly by the former genocidal government that propriated the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The same government that stopped this inhumane genocide is obliged and determined to foresee a new dawn of Rwanda by introducing more free education.