Recently, the Rwandan government announced that it would cut funding to higher education institutions in favour of directing more funds towards basic education. Many may have been taken aback by the decision but it is not strange.
According to the World Bank (2001), higher education is less important than other sectors of education. The most important education for a person’s future is the formative education before the age of ten years, yet pre-school and primary education remains mostly inaccessible and underfunded.
“The child’s ability to think, form relationships and live up to his or her full potential is directly related to the synergistic effect of good health, good nutrition and appropriate stimulation and interaction with others,” the World Bank report stated.
Research shows that children who participate in well conceived Early Childhood Development (ECD) programs tend to be more successful in later school. They are more competent socially and emotionally and show higher verbal and intellectual development during early childhood than children who are not enrolled in higher quality programs.
Ensuring healthy child development, therefore, is an investment in a country’s future workforce and its capacity to thrive economically and socially.
A healthy cognitive and emotional development in the early years translates into tangible economic returns. Early interventions yield higher returns as a preventive measure compared to remedial services later in life.
Policies that seek to remedy deficits incurred in early years are much more costly than initial investments in early years. A case in point is the incomparable cost of the current English training program for francophone teachers and that of teaching the language to school children.
Language acquisition is best in the early childhood years when the language acquisition devices are most active. Children who are exposed to the right training environment in their early years acquire native-like competences in any given language.
Long gone are the days when getting a University admission was jewelry. Once admitted, you were sure of employment after graduation. In fact, the admission was a part-time employment in itself.
Government used to give full scholarships covering tuition, accommodation and food. On top of that, each student was entitled to a monthly stipend for upkeep. I wonder the kind of upkeep that was intended because everything was literary provided for.
A common saying in my community that, ‘over satisfaction leads to drunkenness’ had gained a lot of currency in that age. Due to the relative comfort that the students enjoyed, their demands increased each day which led to regular student rampages every time a different quality of plates were bought for the University cafeteria.
“Comrades Power” was created by students to give constant headache to the university administration. The difference between University lecturers and students was that the students sat and lecturers stood in lecture theatres. Otherwise, they were all equal.
Today things have changed; money gets you an admission and keeps you at the University. When you joke around, you are expelled and you lose your money.
Other world governments like Australia and Britain have also gone this direction and all have one purpose to cut tuition funding so as to balance their national budgets.
The author is the Director of Studies at Nu Vision High School, Kabuga