It is no longer a secret that the writer of this column is excited about the forthcoming East African Education Exhibition and Conference to be held in Kigali. If you have not yet heard about it then you are not a keen follower of news and education news for that matter.
The event is not just forthcoming but actually kicks off tomorrow Friday 1, until Monday. This time the event will be hosted Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST).
For those with a short memory, I should remind you that something similar happened in August 2007 but back then it was referred to as the Rwanda-Uganda Education Expo. It was collaboration between the two countries aimed at strengthening the long existing educational links.
However with the growing regional approach to many things happening in the East African Community it was seemingly fit to widen the scope of the event to cover the other East African countries. What this means therefore is that this year’s event is bound to be bigger than what happened in 2007 at the School of Finance and Banking or the consequent event that was held in Kampala.
The reason why it was initially an affair between Rwanda and Uganda had a lot to do with the fact that Uganda has gradually developed a reputation as the region’s education Mecca. Students from Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, DRC and Southern Sudan have flocked to Ugandan schools from primary to University level.
The explanation for this educational exodus has always revolved around the existence of cheaper but quality education in Uganda. However this year’s EAC version of the expo explains other subtle developments in the Rwandan education system. For example, Kenya has grown as a major player in the education system here.
If you are wondering how then may be you have not heard that Mt. Kenya University already has a branch in Kigali. And that several Kenyan teachers are working here thanks to the friendly labour policies that this country’s government long extended to other East Africans.
Just the other day I saw on Rwanda television a lesson in Kiswahili. Now here is an opportunity for Tanzanians to come on board and help us with this regional lingua franca for which they are known to posses a profound mastery.
This expo is an opportunity for countries in the region to showcase the educational opportunities and products they possess. Rwanda as the host has a lot to benefit by showcasing its progress in the sector while taking time to learn and create linkages with other regional players in the sector.
Participating entities will include primary schools, secondary schools, tertiary institutions, service providers in the education sector as well as education funding agencies.
Under the theme: “Quality Education for Intercultural Understanding and Regional Development” the exhibition will go a long way in helping policy makers and key players in the sector to understand the challenges of harmonising the education sector in the region.
Without harmonisation, the EAC Common Market Protocol remains a myth since graduates from one country may not be able to work elsewhere if that country does not recognise their academic qualifications.
Currently, only Uganda and Tanzania seem to be having a degree of commonality in their education systems. It is therefore important for those in the sector to embrace this exhibition to learn from each other and forge a way forward.
Parents will be presented a good opportunity to evaluate the regional opportunities in the sector. Some parents blindly take their children to any school in Uganda on assumption that it is an ‘international’ school yet it would be cheaper and wiser to try local elite schools like Green Hill Academy or Riviera High School.
Teachers and students should make an effort to attend this landmark event and learn a thing or two about the education sector in East Africa. At this point I hope that you and I can agree that it is important to be at KIST for this expo.