It would be unfair for me to proceed with this column without commending the people of Rwanda for the peaceful elections held at the beginning of this week.
In the same spirit, I wish to use this opportunity to congratulate President Paul Kagame for earning a second seven year mandate to lead this country after his landslide win in the elections.
Considering the strides made in the education sector during the last seven years, I think I am not so far from the truth when I say that Rwandans made the right choice by going for a proven and tested pro-education candidate.
The just concluded elections are another democratic milestone for this country and this ought to be replicated at all other levels of society. Democracy has long been defined as the rule of the people by the people for the people. In simple terms, people are given the choice to decide on who should lead them.
This type of consensual rule has been proven to be the best bet for human social politics. To get the best out of this political arrangement, the democratic culture must be nurtured at the earliest stage possible. And which better point to start than with the schools.
Schools should act as a foundation for democracy so that our future leaders can be accorded prior experience and comfort with the way the system works. The basic assumption here is that all our leaders should be schooled ones.
This is not a far fetched assumption since we already have free education for nine years and we have been promised an extension of this programme to cover 12 years. With every one getting a chance to acquire an education, it is therefore clear that all our future leaders will have passed through class.
In this case, schools must adjust themselves to the fact that they are not a privilege for a few but a conduit for all society’s young ones before they become important future players in different sectors of the society including politics.
Democratic practices should exist in all schools in order to engender the practice in the psyche of the society. A child who learns at an early age that he needs to seek the mandate of his classmates in order to be a class monitor is more likely to follow the same culture in future. In the same light, one who is appointed to head the class simply because he is the oldest or strongest may grow up despising democracy.
I think the Ministry of Education should come up with a policy of democratising schools by making sure that student leaders are elected in a free and fair environment.
Students intending to become prefects should be accorded sometime to present their candidature to fellow students and then free and fair elections are held to choose the winners.
The era of school heads appointing a student they favour to lead others is so archaic and should be disbanded henceforth. This only results in a student who is seen by other students as a spy for the head teacher and not a leader they look up to or trust.
The only role that the school administration should play is to set up guideline for the electoral process. For example students who aspire to be leaders may be required to be of good conduct and exceptional academic abilities.
I know of a school where the academic prefect failed to pass his exams! Someone struggling to achieve academic success should not be given the extra burden of governing others.
The other important thing is for the school heads to devolve some powers to the prefects so that they can actually be in position to administer and be useful.
I say this because in many cases, all the power is retained by the school owner or the teacher in charge of discipline leaving the student leaders as mere stooges loathed by their colleagues.