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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Can Africans write their own story?

While contributing to the discussion - “De-risking Africa”, during the just concluded World Economic Forum in Davos, President Paul Kagame said: “The major problem I see is that Africa’s story is written from somewhere else and not by Africans themselves. That is why the rest of the world looks at Africa and Africans and wants to define us. They want to shape the perception about Africa. The best thing we can do for ourselves is own our problems, own our solutions and write our own story.” The deliberate misrepresentation of Africa has been going on for decades. Ask our generation where civilisation started and you will most likely be told it is Europe. Few know that the Nile Valley was the intellectual, spiritual, educational and industrial center for the ancient world. The areas of science, medicine, mathematics, engineering, philosophy and religion, and so many other human activity areas were created there and were distributed throughout the world by various conquerors and travellers. Most of what is written about Africa has been written by non Africans from their own perspective which is often clouded with neo-colonialism mentality and not in line with the African point of view. A clear example for us in Rwanda is the story of the Rwandan genocide. Numerous books by Western authors have been written some with clear distortions and inaccuracies of what actually happened. Understanding that this is done by purposeful design is the beginning of developing counter measures. In this era of globalisation it is critical that we write our own stories to suite our interests. This is what happens elsewhere. There are many reasons – economic, political, and not least, our own dignity, that should drive us to write our own stories. If not for our economic and social development, writing our own stories frees us from being portrayed in someone else’s perspective and it gives us a sense of liberation. As President Kagame has pointed out, this can only be reversed by Africans taking charge and telling their own story, and unless this is done now, we will continue to be disrespected and preyed upon. Are Africans capable of writing their own stories? Yes, they can. Do they have the intellectual capacity to do so? Of course they do. What then, is preventing us from writing our own stories? Knowledge is not the exclusive preserve of one race. Scientists in the Human Genome Project have proved that 99.9 percent of the human DNA is exactly the same in all races. Africa has great thinkers, academics, scientists, artists and writers. Some have done great things and their achievements have been recognized by honouring them with the prestigious Nobel prize. So, why is it that with such a wealth of knowledge and abundance of intellectuals, the African story continues to be told by non Africans? The solution to the problem of writing our own story is not a difficult one. The requirements are: talent, writing skills and time. These we have in abundance. The rest is organisation and some resources, which we also have. I have been impressed by the number of talented contributors to The New Times. I am especially thrilled by the increasing number of young contributors like Nathalie (Munyampenda), Alline (Akintore), Diana (Mpyisi) and others who are writing interesting articles on various subjects. Then there are seasoned writers like Pan (Butamire), Joseph (Rwagatare), Sunny (Ntayombya), Arthur (Asiimwe) and others. We are not short of talent and writing skills. In order to support our President so that a couple of years from today his message at Davos is that of hope and self-assurance, a few things must be put in place. Firstly, a strong association of writers and potential writers (I believe there are many) must be created. If I recall well, a few years ago Dr. James Vuningoma, while at KIE (Kigali Institute of Education), started a writers association. Without reinventing the wheel, this association could be revived. The association should be a forum for members to share experiences, provide guidance, mentorship and resource mobilisation. Writing is time and energy consuming and often not financially rewarding. Many writers write for personal fulfillment. To write researched articles needs resources. If we are going to be serious about writing our own stories, we should be ready to invest in our people, motivate them, recognise and reward their achievements. This could be achieved through a public-private-partnership. In the West, writers make a living out of writing. Publishers pay writers well and also provide incentives to encourage them to write more. This would be a good thing to emulate. A critical element that is often ignored in Africa is the role of think tanks in development. Empowered think tanks in addition to coming up with creative and innovative ideas, also carry out research and development (R&D) work. We need to create and empower think tanks. The think tanks become the source of what to write on including positive propaganda. The West understands the critical role of think tanks and R&D and has been using them for centuries. Here, I would like to challenge our academic institutions to take the lead. The R&D within our institutions of higher education should produce ideas that can be turned into practical solutions to benefit the citizens. Telling our own stories has a ripple effect in that it recognises achievement, motivates and creates heroes. We need to create heroes and idols for our children to have something to look up to with pride. Success stories motivate the young and lift the spirit. While there are many answers to the question as to why we do not write our own stories, my take is that we have not yet completely overcome some of the neo-colonialism mentality. We need to completely liberate ourselves from mental enslavement. There is need to redefine our lifestyles, our priorities and our goals. In essence, a mindset change. By Gerald Mpyisi

Parents, children and sex education

THE head teacher of Groupe Scolaire (GS) Nsinda in Rwamagana district has been suspended following reports that 26 of his students were found to be pregnant. The teens were either found to be pregnant or recently gave birth while at school. Some of the pregnancies were linked to teachers who are supposed to be the custodians of these girls. This unfortunate incident is a wakeup call. Parents should not burry their heads and assume there is nothing their teens are up to while in school. They need to focus on the reality that some teens are involved in relationships while at school or might be lured into relationships. However, such relationships may be damaging. For them, it may mean sexual intercourse and yet this isn’t the principle of relationships at this level. Relationships for students should be for academic purposes and extra co-curricular activities. When they engage in romantic relationships, this has negative effects on students, like falling grades. In some cases (sexual), it may lead to contraction of HIV/Aids, other sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies. Schools should prohibit intimate relationships. Schools should develop guidance and counseling services, conducted on a regular basis, to equip students with life skills like abstinence and handling volatile relationships. Parents should give schools a helping hand. They should create a bond with their teenage children. Once this bond is created they will be in position to know what their children are up to and will be in position to know what is happening to them and advise them on the dangers of involving in relationships while in school. School administrators, too, must take full responsibility for the safety and well-being of children while at school. The consequences of not doing their job as expected of them are dire. Above all, those responsible for luring teens, particularly girls, into such irresponsible and dangerous behaviours should be held accountable. The New Times

Education Times a timely intervention

As every student studies, a stage reaches when they are called candidates. In secondary schools, this is at the end of the third and sixth year when students have to sit for national examinations that determine their next academic step. As a candidate, you need to make a lot of preparations for the exams. And this is not an easy task. It requires seriousness; you have to be disciplined and follow instructions to the book. Candidates should be well-informed about examination malpractices, which can affect other students, parents and school administration. Examinations require a lot of courage, reasoning, and understanding. To read your books as a candidate does not mean just reading the books you are currently using to study. It means revising each and every thing you have learnt, which is a lot of information. But when you take your time and start reading as early as possible, during exams, you just need to go through and recall what you read. Doing this will not only help you to pass, but also help you reduce stress-related problems. You also need to maintain good health. That means you should also do some extra-curricular activities like sports. Candidates must also avoid getting nervous or scared to the extent that they even refuse or skip meals. This is unhealthy as it hampers the brain’s ability to think. To all candidates, work hard, do your best and trust God to do the rest. The New Times

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What made best student succeed

Niyongabo Kwibuka from Petit Seminaire Ndera was the third best student in 2012 O-level exams and attributed the good performance to reading hard. “I did not have time to waste that I even read for a few more minutes after the rest had gone to bed. I realised that someone cannot achieve his expectations unless they invest more time,” he told The New Times yesterday. The teenager, who wants to become a civil engineer, intends to continue studying Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics at A-level. Pascal Tuyisenge, the Director of Studies at the same school, mentioned that they put much emphasis on discipline, reading hard as well as getting competent teachers to guide the students. He, however, observed that though the school was performing better they lacked enough teaching materials like books, which he said was hindering their operations. “We would fare better if the Ministry of Education provided all the needed books for us to buy otherwise it will continue hurting the sector,” he said yesterday, adding that Mineduc should also consider private schools as well instead of putting most focus on public schools. The New Times

Mineduc pushes for knowledge transfer

The Ministry of Education has entered a partnership with industries that will encourage higher learning institutions to share research findings with manufacturers. The programme, dubbed Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KFP), was launched last week in Kigali. The Minister of Education, Dr. Vincent Biruta, explained that under the partnership, a business seeking to implement a strategic project will get an academic or research partner to provide essential knowledge and a graduate to manage the project. KFP is the follow up on a report of a study carried out three years ago, that was aimed at mapping science and technology for industry development in the country by linking research and development between industries and higher learning institutions. Being a part of KFP, the Higher Institute of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, ISAE-Busogo, will significantly benefit as most available technologies, facilities and qualified staff are found in ISAE. According to the Director General for Science, Technology and Research in Mineduc, Dr. Marie Christine Gasingirwa, higher learning institutions produce a lot of information from their research but these are usually rendered useless information because they are not put to good use. “But with this, a very well developed graduate business leader will contribute strongly to the company where they are placed,” she said. Alexander Rutikanga, a lecturer and researcher in ISAE-BUSOGO, emphasised the importance of the partnership. “KTP programme will help ISAE realise skilled graduates due to possibility for a fruitful industrial attachment,” he said. The benefit is that research institutions and universities will become aware of the critical problem focusing on the research. Each partnership project will be provided with a budget of Rwf10 million per year per project for two years, to cover the cost for travel, academic time and development, graduate training and minor equipment. WHAT THEY SAY >Tony Mitchell, advisor to Ministry of Education: We hope the programme will be successful since KTP has been used successfully in the UK for 40 years. >Claudien Gashagaza, director of administration at SULFO-RWANDA: Through KTP, Rwanda is going to be developed. There will be no need to spend a lot of money recruiting engineers abroad. >Pr. Deogratias Niyibizi, Rector of INES-Ruhengeri: The programme would make a positive impact in producing research. This way, graduate students put into practice what they have learnt and interact with industries. The New Times

Best girl student wants medicine

Hope Uwera, 13, of Bright Academy in Nyagatare who emerged the best female performer in the 2012 Primary Leaving Examinations wants to become a doctor. She also emerged fourth best pupil countrywide. Uwera attributed her performance to hard work, group work on top of support from parents and teachers as well as self motivation. “I started reading seriously in P3. I used to read various papers and revised even what I had studied in P2,” the jolly pupil, dressed in her former school uniform, said. “I followed my teachers’ advice and spent time with my classmates discussing our notes or solving some tough questions.” Surprisingly Uwera says she was an average performer but that her target was to finally perform well in national exams and she injected some extra effort. “I remember when I was in P1, I used to be the tenth, and similarly in P2, I was among the top 10 best performers until I was in P3,” she says. She remembers in the first term of P5 she was the sixth and the tenth in second term. “When I knew that someone performs better than I did, I approached them and asked them to study with me. I used to learn much from them while sharing what I knew, I also used to help those who were not good and finally all candidates passed the national exams,” Uwera says. Despite all her efforts and hard work, Uwera says she had never dreamt that she would be the best female performer and fourth best country wide. “All I was sure of is that I would pass highly,” Uwera says. Uwera’s success impressed her so much and she hopes to work harder and perform better in secondary school, to achieve her dream of becoming a doctor. She recognises the support from her parents since nursery. “My parents have been my guides and without their mental and physical support, I would not be what I am now. They advised me on what to do and kept encouraging me. They told me to do the homework and revise everyday before sleeping,” she said, before crediting teachers for her success as well. Andrew Kabera, her father says his daughter demonstrated competence even when she was still young. “She liked to study and we helped her to get whatever she needed as parents. She used to occupy the best positions in class and we had hope she could make it and perform well,” said Kabera. “One day she asked us to let her join boarding section to study harder and we let her go,” said her mother. Emmanuel Rumanzi, the deputy director of the Bright Academy said Uwera, like other pupils, performed well at school thanks to the strategies the school uses to teach the students. “We take care of our pupils by providing quality education and even guide them, while encouraging them to work as a team. We also have good and motivated teachers,” says Rumanzi. About the school . . . Bright Academy School started in 1997 as a coaching school founded by a group of ten parents. The pupils used to study under the tree back then. In 2000, the first batch of six pupils sat for PLE and all passed. The school has emerged in top twenty in the country for past four years. The New Times

Youth start national service

Prime Minister Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, yesterday, launched the national voluntary service with more than 40,000 youth lined up to engage in the three-month service. The PM challenged the youth to emulate their forefathers and serve the nation diligently. “National service is not a new phenomenon in Rwanda. Our grandparents did it. It is all about nationalism and patriotism. Our youth will get a chance to fight evil in society and assist in developing the nation with hands-on experience,” the PM said. The programme, dubbed Urugerero, is an ancient, home-baked custom that has been resurrected and incorporated into society, spearheaded by the Itorero National Taskforce. The chairman of the taskforce, Boniface Rucagu, said awareness campaign on dangers of HIV/Aids, adult literacy and constructing teachers’ house are part of the activities to be conducted. Apart from the national launch, there were several other ceremonies in sectors and districts across the country. In Kigali City, Mayor Fidele Ndayisaba launched the service at Integrated Polytechnic Reintegration Centre. Ndayisaba said the youth will be serving in various activities related to the structure of the city which will lead to its development. “The youth are physically and mentally strong. They should strive to develop the country using that strength,” said Ndayisaba. Optimism in the air Promoting hygiene in the city, taxing business people, fighting against HIV/Aids, and conserving environment are among the activities for engagement. Sadam Rugamba, a participant from Niboyi sector, Kicukiro district, said he is ready to volunteer. “It is very important, though it is voluntary and requires sacrifice, I am ready to participate, we will be doing various activities and I hope we will be more productive,” said Rugamba . In three months, evaluation will done and certificates awarded to volunteers. Meanwhile, in Rwamagana district, the Prime Minister also launched a one-month drive dedicated to good governance in the country. Addressing residents of Rwamagana district, the premier said good governance is a prerequisite for sustainable development. “Our commitment to empower citizens to be self-reliant cannot be over emphasised. You know good service delivery, zero corruption, disease free society, and it must give a sense of responsibility to everyone,” he said. Habumuremye, who had earlier commissioned a public market in Ntunga sector, and teachers’ staff quarters at Rwamagana Primary School, said the government would continue supporting infrastructure development. By Stephen Rwembeho & Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti