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Thursday, November 15, 2012

No more forgery of school reports

When software developer Jean-Pierre Habinshu­ti was one day walking around in the city center, he sudden­ly noticed a man filling in points on two blank primary school reports. When finished, the man gave them to a young man nearby for stamping. It was done in a matter of minutes. It made Habinshuti realize how easy it is to fake school reports, all the more so since they are printed on plain paper you can find in any stationery shop, and filled in with an ordinary pen. Forging a stamp and signature is not rocket science either. “That scared me, but it also gave me an idea that later became the project I’m working on right now,” says Habinshuti, who is currently working at the ICT incubation cen­ter kLab, to which you are admitted only when you can present a ‘vi­able project that society will benefit from.’ “After observing how easy it is to forge school documents, I re­alized that I should do something about it.” He created a web application called Unified School System (USS), a centralized system that will con­nect all primary and high schools in Rwanda to tackle the increasing forgery of school documents, im­prove student performance and en­gage parents in following up the ed­ucation of their children. Data – test and exam scores as well as students’ behavior – will be inputted by the school, stored into a server at the ministry of education, and then delivered instantly to the parents by e-mail or text message. The system also allows to print school reports with some security features – the paper will have a spe­cific watermark, and every report will have a unique serial number that can be tracked. Habinshuti started working on the project nearly three months ago, coding it in PHP whereas data is stored into MySQL databases. He deliberately chose these two open-source programming languages be­cause they are completely free. Being a web app, rather than desktop soft­ware, it will be universally accessible and relatively easy to maintain. “I presented the software to the ministry of education; they have ap­preciated it and approved both the design and user interface because it will help them standardize the plat­form – something they have been lacking. We have also sat down to­gether to apply the final tweaks. The software was thoroughly checked, debugged and is now almost ready for the public.” Being the first-ever IT commu­nity in Rwanda, kLab is an open space where IT entrepreneurs and designers meet to share ideas and skills. It hosts training sessions every Wednesday, which is where Habin­shuti learned the techniques to en­hance the navigability of the web app as well as security measures that must be taken to prevent the soft­ware from being hacked. The developer is confident that the ministry of education will adopt his system for the next academic year. He wants to offer it free of charge for the sake of marketing himself by building a solid résumé in software development in Rwanda. Focus

Umwalimu SACCO gets 5bn

The Minister of Education Dr Vincent Biruta has announced that the government has set aside Frw 5bn to Umwalimu SACCO in order to facilitate public teachers’ access to loans. According to Dr Biruta, the money set aside for the Sacco has been increased from Frw 574 million a year because the government wants teachers to develop and uplift their living conditions. The minister also said that the program will last for 10 years, and by then the government will have injected around Frw 30 billion in the finance institution. “We will be alternately putting in Frw 5bn and Frw 1bn as years flow.” Apart from the money put in SACCO, the interested rate for public teachers taking loans from the fund was reduced. “The interest rate was initially 14% , but now we have reduced it to 11% for those who ask for money to invest in profitable businesses, and 13% on non-profitable ones,” Dr Biruta said recently, adding that the new changes take effect immediately. “Even those who had already taken loans and not yet started to pay back will benefit from the reduced interest rates.” About 30,204 out of the 57,000 teachers countrywide have already taken loans from Mwalimu SACCO. “Projecting to five years from now we expect a 21,000 boost from the current numbers, and in 10 years, we should have achieved at least 50,000 teachers who will have got loans from the fund individually or in cooperatives. By then, we’ll have to turn to a self-reliant Mwalimu SACCO, with the government investing nothing,” Dr Biruta said. Focus

Are exams a do or die situation?

Anxiety, tension, wetting of the palms, panic and stomach upset. These usually greet candidates who sit for final examinations at the end of each level; these exams are popularly known as summative evaluation in the education circles. The hyper reaction of the body towards such circumstances is not only as a result of ill preparedness, as it is usually presumed. Even those who thoroughly prepare for the exams find themselves blank and nervous. They gaze at the grave quiet exam rooms and the two or 3 page colored or colorless examination question papers and wonder if all their years of labour, endurance of the biting morning and evening cold, let alone the money spent in school fees and upkeep, will come for naught by failing to answer just four questions after long toil and voluminous study. A student looks at a question paper and fails to comprehend how a slight error in responding to the question items will be life defining and modeling. Tension mounts in pursuit of perfection. The dry and scaring eye of the invigilator complicates the situation. In fact, the entire situation sounds like conspiracy to frustrate someone’s dreams. It is amazing how success in education has been so much pegged on obtaining the best grades in examinations. The grades from school stratify people and society. Excellence or failure earns one a social stamp that defines the stratum that he or she will belong to. Before we give a verdict whether passing examinations is the only key to success or it is success in itself, let’s consult authorities and see what they say about success. The Encarta dictionary defines success as the achievement of intention or something planned. This definition is on the same vein with success in examinations in a narrow view because passing examinations is triumph over a set task. Different people have varied views of what success means to them. The views are as varied and widespread as the dynamics of the human race. The poor will think having a lot of money will be an upward thrust to success while the rich count themselves successful if they get happiness. To avoid digressing very much let me get back to the point. Failure in school is not a failure in life. As long as literacy well above basic is attained one can always make it in life. This should not be misconstrued to mean that excellent school grades are of minimal or no consequence. NO. Those who obtain excellent grades have the kind of aptitude that will take them places. The view that I want to advance is the fact that failing in school is not a barricade to success. Many are the success stories of those who failed in school and colleges who can be regarded as successful by all the possible parameters of humanly measuring success. A new notion is needed in the view of success by the society. Pegging it all to national examinations puts students on a path that is way too difficult and perilous to tread; in fact, it is suicidal. Examinations are a mere measure of academic achievement. By Zachariah Mayaka Nyamosi

Cheaper loans for teachers

The Teachers Savings and Credit Co-operative, Umwalimu Sacco, has reduced its lending interest rate by three per cent to encourage members to apply for loans. The sacco has reduced its lending rate from 14 per cent to 11 per cent following government’s intervention to make loans affordable to teachers. A Cabinet meeting last week resolved to support the sacco and approved Rwf5 billion grant to boost its capital base. The sacco, which has 60,000 members and a capital base estimated at Rwf40 billion, lends Rwf14 billion per year, according to data available. Uplift social status of teachers The sacco’s director-general, Joseph Museruka, said the government pledged its support in a bid to uplift the social status of teachers, mainly those in public schools. “It was towards the end of last year that the government decided to increase their salary by 10 per cent, now they are being facilitated to access cheaper loans,” he said. Mr Museruka added that 18 per cent of the Rwf5 billion added to the sacco’s coffers would help teachers to access mortgages with a 15-year repayment period instead of five. The special credit facility will only benefit teachers in public schools and their counterparts in private schools, who will be charged 14 per cent interest, he added. Need to strengthen saccos While presenting this year’s budget statement in June, Finance Minister John Rwangombwa underscored the need to strengthen saccos, saying they had become an important instrument of economic and social transformation. He also announced that the government had allocated Rwf2.6 billion to provide technical assistance to saccos. Last year, the government launched a programme of donating one cow per teacher countrywide in order to motivate them. Ministry of Education reports indicate that 257,000 cows are given to teachers every year. The government expects to donated 700,000 cows by 2014. Motivated by government’s initiatives Catherine Uzamushaka, a beneficiary of the programme, said teachers have been motivated by government’s initiatives to uplift their standards of living. Mrs Uzamushakawho, a primary school teacher in Jali Sector, said teachers would donate calves when their cows deliver so as to ensure continuity of the programme. Meanwhile, the government early this year awarded A2 teachers a salary increment of 10 per cent. The Minister of Public Service and Labour, Mr Anastase Murekezi, said the teachers would get at least a 56 per cent salary increment over six years and other public workers between 25 per cent and 35 per cent over the same period. Rwanda Today

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Secondary sch exams kick off

National examinations for Ordinary and Advanced levels of secondary education will commence this morning and conclude November 23. According to figures from the Rwanda Education Board (REB), 83,920 candidates are registered to sit for the O'level exams compared to 80,093 students who sat last year, representing a 4.8 percent increase. For Advanced level candidates, the number of candidates has increased from 31,734 last year to 33,806 this year. Meanwhile, the number of private students to sit A-level exams has decreased from 7,665 last year to 4,374 this year. Speaking to The New Times, the REB Deputy Director General in charge of Examinations and Accreditation, Emmanuel Muvunyi, said O' level candidates will sit the exams from 381 centres while 301 centres have been designated for Advanced level exams. He stressed that security has been tightened to minimise cheating. "The exams and materials were dispatched to districts on Sunday and we have held meetings with people in charge of security and exams at all levels," he said. He added that they have also reviewed regulations governing national examinations and given tips on how to handle examination materials at all centres. "We have strengthened our strategies to tackle cheating as past experiences have shown that cheating is common in secondary candidates" For A level students offering science subjects; chemistry, biology, and physics, 141 centres have been arranged for practical exams, he said. The candidates The New Time talked to in both levels expressed their readiness and optimism ahead of the examinations. However, some of those who are expected to do practical exams said they were not aware of the arrangements made for them adding they have not had enough exercises related to the exams. "We are aware we will sit for practical exams but not really ready as we are for theory. We didn't have enough practice and we don't know how the practical exams will be set as we normally revise questions of theoretical exams," said Clarisse Niyigena, a candidate of Mathematics, Physics and Geography combination at Ecole Secondaire Scientifique in Kigali City. The New Times

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fund attracts 40 education projects

The Ministry of Education and UK Aid Fund project is currently screening 39 proposals from education innovators who stand a chance of getting funding worth between Rwf 50m-Rwf 800m.  

The three years funding project that aims at improving the quality of education is focused on empowering new innovators in education.

“We received 150 projects that expressed interest and from that number, the vetting exercise shortlisted 41 projects that can help or contribute to the promotion of quality education,” said Marc Van der Stouwe, head of the project.

He explained that the 41 were then asked to submit their full proposals so that they can further be screened to select those that will be funded.

Only 39 finally submitted in their proposals.

Stouwe said that the first vetting exercise based on two major factors that included the capacity for applicants to implement what they had in their proposals and relevance and applicability in line with responding to the challenges the education system.

The project that will cost Rwf 10bn has capacity of providing financial support ranging from Rwf 50m to Rwf 800m depending on the size of the proposed project.

“In two weeks time, we shall have come up with the exact number of projects to fund, and we are sure that before end of the year, these projects will have signed contracts,” he said.

Implementations of the activities by the projects are expected to kick off in January next year.

Stouwe said that among other factors that heavily contribute to a project to qualify for funding is the monitoring mechanism in place to ensure that activities are implemented as per the proposals.

Although officials working on the project could not establish the actual number of projects that will be supported, it is expected that the number will be reduced.

The project`s policy and institutional development adviser, Claver Yisa, recently told The New Times that among others, projects dealing in promoting ICT stand more chances of benefiting from the fund.

He also said that monitoring and evaluation exercises will be conducted to check on the effectiveness and progress of each funded project.

By Susan Babijja

Kagame to address Oxford alumni

President Paul Kagame will today, in Nigeria, address alumni of Oxford and Cambridge universities.

The alumni are grouped under the Oxford and Cambridge Club of Nigeria.

The club is renowned for two main calendar events, the May Ball (typically held in June) and its annual lectures traditionally referred to as “The Spring Lecture”.

The President will address The Spring Lecture.

He is the first incumbent President to address the Club.

According to the Club’s president, Akinfela Akoni, the Head of State was invited, among other reasons, to share his leadership skills which have seen Rwanda transformed remarkably,

“Our objective was simple, we wanted to show our appreciation of the leadership of President Kagame because through his leadership, he has been able to reunite the Rwandan people into one family,” Akoni said.

Four members of the Club visited Rwanda in June this year, when they presented their invitation.

“We felt it would be our great honour if President Kagame could come to Nigeria and deliver the leadership lecture due to his exemplary good leadership he has demonstrated in Rwanda,” Akoni told reporters shortly after extending his club’s invitation.

The members of Oxford-Cambridge Club of Nigeria are drawn from various professions and are leaders in their fields.

The club’s aim is to seek ways in which to impact positive change in Nigeria. The story of Rwanda’s recovery inspired them and, as a result, they picked interest in engaging with President Kagame to tap into his wisdom and leadership.

While in Nigeria, the President is also scheduled to meet investors and young professionals.

The New Times

Primary exams end smoothly

The national Primary Leaving Examinations which began last Tuesday ended yesterday without any major incidents, according to Emmanuel Muvunyi, the Deputy Director General Examinations and Accreditation at the Rwanda Education Board (REB).

“The exams ended well. We have received no cases about any thing bad. There were no instances of cheating and all (pupils) who registered sat for the exam,” said Muvunyi.

Heavy rains however,  delayed the examination for 30 minutes in two examination centres that Muvunyi could not specify.

“It was not possible for supervisors to get the examination sheets to examination rooms as there was a heavy down pour. Candidates were also not able to get to the centres on time hence the delay,” he said, without specifying the centres affected.

He further revealed that a female candidate had experienced labour pains though she managed to sit for the examination from the hospital she had been admitted to.

Some candidates who spoke to The New Times expressed optimism about their chances for success.

“I tried to answer all questions to the best of my ability. However, science was a bit complicated but I hope to be in secondary school in the next academic year,” said Ritah Uwera, a candidate from Ecole Primaire Saint Agnes Nyarugunga in Kigali, who sat her examinations at G S Remera Protestant School.

Another pupil, Maxime Nkurunziza from Rwimbogo Primary School in Kigali said: “I believe I have done well. I am expecting good results,” said Nkurunziza.

Meanwhile, Rwanda National Police spokesperson, Supt. Theos Badege, said the exercise went on smoothly with no reported cases of cheating or any other malpractice.

The examination answer sheets were yesterday transported to all district headquarters countrywide before they are ferried to  the Rwanda Education Board headquarters in Kigali today.

Meanwhile, the national secondary school examinations are scheduled to begin on Wednesday next week.

Over 170,000 pupils sat for the exams this year.

 By Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

About 500 miss national exams

The State Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, Dr. Mathias Harebamungu has revealed that because of various reasons five hundred pupils and students will not sit this year’s national primary and O’level examinations.

While officiating at the commencement of this year’s Primary Leaving Examinations at Centre Scholaire De Nyange B in Ngororero District, Western Province, Harebamungu who didn’t give give details also cautioned schools against denying students exams for fear of recording poor performance in the national exams.    

The warning followed reports that some teachers bar students from sitting for exams for fear of recording failures.

Addressing the candidates from three primary schools, Harebamungu said he had visited the centre to wish the candidates good luck.

“We wanted to meet candidates upcountry so that they don’t think that we are based in towns only, each candidate should be enabled to make it to  secondary next year,”  

Over 180 candidates from Centre Scolaire Nyange B, Groupe Scolaire Kigali and Centre Scolaire Giko all from Ngororero district sat from the centre.

He urged the parents, teachers and students to work hand in hand to assure that quality education is available to all Rwandans.

Candidates expressed their readiness for exams and optimism to succeed in exams. 

 “I have revised and I am not afraid to sit for exams, my weakness is in English but I hope to pass,” said Diane Umwali a candidate from GS Kigali.

The Head teacher of SC Nyange B, Sister Adélaide Nyirambabazi, said that teachers have done their best to prepare their pupils for the exams.

By Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

170,000 sit primary examinations

Over 170,000 candidates will today begin  the Primary Leaving Examinations.

According to Emmanuel Muvunyi, the Deputy Director General, Examinations and Accreditation at the Rwanda Education Board (REB), the number of candidates has increased  from 167386 candidates last year, representing  a 6.6 percent increase.  

Muvunyi said that preparations for the examinations are moving as planned.  

“The examinations are scheduled to commence today. The examination materials arrived at the centres on Sunday,” Muvunyi told The New Times yesterday.

The examination materials were distributed to all the 726 examination centres countrywide with invigilators having already arrived at their designated centres, according to Muvunyi

He said  REB will do its best to ensure that exams are conducted successfully despite the on going heavy rains across the country.  

“We do everything in our means to support every registered candidate  to sit for their exams.  We must ensure that examination regulations and ethics are adhered to whatever the case.  We do not compromise the examinations standards,” he warned.

He added that measures are  in place to assist any candidate who develops a problem during the examination period.

Some of the candidates interviewed by The New Times expressed their readiness for the exams.

“I am prepared and hope to pass. I am good at all subjects apart from mathematics. However, I want to study sciences in secondary because my dream is to become a Doctor,” Alain Mugisha Mukiza, a pupil at Saint Paul International School in Kigali said.

Willy Rukundo, a pupil at the same school echoed similar optimism. “I am only poor in English but I am ready. I spent   a long time  revising in preparation for the exams. I hope I will pass and  pursue my dream of becoming a pilot.”

Placide Umurame, a teacher at a Kadasumbwa Primary in Rwamagana District said the candidates at this school are ready to sit for the exams.

“We completed the syllabus in time  and the pupils are ready to sit the exams,” said Umurame.

The candidates will sit for three main  examinations papers including mathematics, sciences and languages.

The examinations end on November 8.

By Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Rwanda education statistics

Education statistics on Rwanda basic on recent data: facts and figures, stats and information on Rwandan Education.
to the top  
Youth (15-24 years) literacy rate (%), 2005-2010*, male
Youth (15-24 years) literacy rate (%), 2005-2010*, female
Number per 100 population , 2010, mobile phones
Number per 100 population , 2010, Internet users
Pre-primary school participation, Gross enrolment ratio (%), 2007-2010*, male
Pre-primary school participation, Gross enrolment ratio (%), 2007-2010*, female
Primary school participation, Gross enrolment ratio (%), 2007-2010*, male
Primary school participation, Gross enrolment ratio (%), 2007-2010*, female
Primary school participation, Net enrolment ratio (%), 2007-2010*, male
Primary school participation, Net enrolment ratio (%), 2007-2010*, female
Primary school participation, Net attendance ratio (%), 2005-2010*, male
Primary school participation, Net attendance ratio (%), 2005-2010*, female
Primary school participation, Survival rate to last primary grade (%) , 2006-2009*, admin. data
Primary school participation, Survival rate to last primary grade (%) , 2005-2010*, survey data
Secondary school participation, Net enrolment ratio (%), 2007-2010*, male
Secondary school participation, Net enrolment ratio (%), 2007-2010*, female
Secondary school participation, Net attendance ratio (%), 2005-2010*, male
Secondary school participation, Net attendance ratio (%), 2005-2010*, female

Thriving in child-friendly schools

Rubingo Primary School was transformed into a UNICEF-supported centre for learning excellence seven years ago. Since then, teachers and parents have witnessed a significant change.

“We have been able to improve on our own knowledge and the way we teach, thereby improving the way students learn and perform,” said Viviane Mutarutwa, who has taught at the school since 2007.

Training teachers
UNICEF supports Teacher Resource Centres (TRCs) in Rwanda, dedicates spaces which enable on-site refresher training and provide an environment for teachers to interact, discuss learning methods and prepare for lessons.

At Rubingo Primary School, located 20 km from Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, there are ‘learning days’ for teachers, where they can learn about modern teaching methods, child-centred methodologies, games and life skills.
“The more educated we, as teachers, are, the more likely it is that our students will get a quality education,” said Ms. Mutarutwa.

Model schools
Rwanda has one of the highest primary school enrolment rates in Africa -  95 per cent in 2010 –  but the quality of learning still remains a challenge. A quarter of all students do not complete primary education and 14 per cent repeat a class.

UNICEF began modelling the concept of Child-Friendly Schools in 2003. It focuses on improved learning methods, better conditions for children and an inclusive nature. The Government of Rwanda has adopted this approach as the basic standard for all schools in the country.

Providing on-going training for teachers is a key aspect of the concept. “We hope that teachers will be able to improve quality learning outcomes for children through such TRCs,” said UNICEF Education Specialist Heinrich Rukundo.

The vision is to have six to eight model schools in each of Rwanda’s 30 districts, with TRCs monitored by the schools’ head teachers in conjunction with teacher training colleges.

Brighter future
The changes at Rubingo Primary School have been welcomed by students and teachers alike. “Before UNICEF started providing assistance in making this school child-friendly, all we had were dark classrooms with a few benches,” said Head Teacher Jean de la Paix.

“Today, we have bigger, brighter classrooms, separate latrines for girls and boys, a playground and most importantly, a teacher resource centre.”

There were only four teachers and 70 pupils at Rubingo Primary School in 2003. That has since risen to 15 teachers and more than 300 students. The children’s education has also improved.
“At the National Primary Leaving Examinations this year, over 88 per cent of the pupils who sat it passed. And we have no drop outs,” said Mr. de la Paix.

By Sam Nkurunziza

School: A Guide for Teachers

The programme is designed to reach preschool children during the year before school enrolment. Older children in upper primary grades, Young Facilitators, will be paired with one or several preschool children. Teachers on the programme will be responsible for facilitating the group meetings as well as guiding, motivating, and supporting the Young Facilitators.
Through weekly sessions in a school-based club-type atmosphere, the Young Facilitators will engage children in a series of fun learning

View details

School: A child-to-child approach

'Getting Ready for School: A child‐to‐child approach' is an innovative and cost‐effective way of preparing preschool-aged children and their families to enroll on time in school and to succeed once enrolled. Recognizing the lack of formal preschools and other early learning opportunities for most children in developing countries, this strategy – which supplements other early learning opportunities – builds on the natural phenomenon of younger children learning from and interacting with older children.
Through child‐to‐child interactions, the younger child develops early learning competencies and is better prepared to start school at the right age; the older child also benefits from enhanced confidence and self-esteem by taking part in the approach.
UNICEF and the Child‐to‐Child Trust (Institute of Education, University of London) have collaborated on this pilot project since 2007. Six countries participated in the pilot: Bangladesh, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tajikistan and Yemen.
In 2010, UNICEF completed an evaluation of the first year of this pilot project. The evaluation presents an in‐depth analysis and results at the country level as well as general conclusions based on the findings from all participating countries.
Following this evaluation and its recommendations, the pilot countries are now at different stages of programme expansion. Plans are also being developed to pilot the integration of this initiative into the Child Friendly Education approach.

View details by UNICEF

Examinations do count a lot

Many times our education system gets a bashing for being obsolete. It is defined as a conveyor belt for job seekers who in many cases have been found unable to even write a decent letter to ask for the jobs they want. Others go on and on about how the system can hardly produce the critical thinkers our society needs, instead it creates fellows who are only good at memorising theories.

Another category will jump on how useless the examinations are. How they fail to test so many qualities of the student but simply focus on what he/she can remember in a space of about 3 hours the things he spent years studying.

On this front, the argument is that eventually the whole education process is directed at merely passing examinations. Well, I hate to break it to you that all the above are true about our education system. And yes it would be nice to overhaul the system to capture more than just one’s ability to reproduce what was taught over the years in beautiful language on a piece of paper.

And by the way it is not just the “analysts” who think there is something wrong with the education system. The students (or call them the victims) also feel it is not fair that they are treated this way. One is in school for several years, attends class almost daily, plays football in the evenings and may also join the school choir but in three hours the focus is on things like the periodic table or historical phenomenon that barely concerns him/her.

Some students even go ahead to express this disgust for the examinations. I still remember a student of mine called Amos who during a French language examination simply wrote that “To hell with French. Wacha wewe!” To this day I still don’t know whether this boy continued with his studies.

A journalist friend based in Tanzania recently told me of the story in the Tanzanian media of the boy who wrote what appeared to be lyrics of a rap song on an examination answer sheet on how the education system does not accommodate the interests of ‘Bongo Flava’ hip hop enthusiasts.

All said and done, examinations are still an important way of evaluating whether learning has taken place. It is also a way to certify this learning and much as the changes are needed, the fact is that right now no serious changes have been made by those who are in position to do so.

Therefore in the meantime we need to tell our children and students to prepare well for these examinations even in their current state. The reason I say this is because our society still places a huge penalty on those who fail these examinations. In the first place, failure throws one off the education train.

No matter how many goals you can score in a football game or how sweet your voice sounds as you put in your efforts for the school choir failing exams will have many blaming you for doing what actually you know best.

As students wait for the day when we have a more holistic education set up that does not place so much emphasis on passing examinations they need to pass the exams given to them today.  This requires them to be prepared and well read.

Consequences of not being prepared are quite grave as they may mean having to repeat the whole year or miss a chance to join the university to pursue a degree course of your choice. Teachers should also play their role to assist the students in the best way possible.

After all many of the people who bash the education system and its examinations are people who sat for their examinations and actually passed them. They too knew that they had to pass if they were even to be listened to as they complained about the system in its current state.

By Allan Senyonga

Vocational skills to boost economy

The Minister of Education, Dr. Vincent Biruta, has said that promotion of vocational and technical education remains government’s priority for the country to attain a knowledge-based economy status by 2020.

While addressing the opening of second TVET expo, Biruta said the promotion of vocational education will help bridge the skills gap needed to boost the economy.

“To achieve this we must promote education at all levels and technical and vocational education should be emphasized”  

He said that the government is looking at ways of how it can promote vocational and technical education to provide enough skills needed on the local market.

“Increasing on the number of vocational schools will help the youth to acquire skills needed for our market but most importantly to help in entrepreneurship”

Currently over 69,520 students of which 31,143 are girls are enrolled in various technical schools.

 Biruta urged parents to encourage their children to opt for vocational and technical studies and change the attitude towards vocational education.

“We have to change the attitude of thinking that vocational education is for academic failures”

The Rector of Rwanda Tourism University College (RTUC), Callixte Kabera said that the training institutions have the capacity to provide   the required skills but they lack funding.

By Dias Nyesiga

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Can our schools nurture leaders?

Saying that the world is truly a global village is no longer a new revelation. Technology has managed to make us all feel like we actually live in the same village. Social media takes this a little further by creating the illusion that we even know each other closely. 

Technologies like the television, radio and of late the mobile phone and the Internet have destroyed the geographical barriers that kept us far apart for centuries and centuries. Children of today are aware of things that happen miles away and often at the very time they happen.  

The best example of this is the keen followership (almost idol worship) of the football leagues in Europe, precisely the English Premier League. People in Butare or Cyangugu will know almost instantly, the moment a goal is scored against the team they support or the one that it will be playing against. 

The technology has also helped children to know something about major events and personalities from different countries without having to read up about them. For example many primary school children will confidently tell you that Barack Obama is the president of the US. Some even have the tendency of asking any white person they see, whether he/she knows Obama personally. 

With the US elections drawing closer, many people are taking the time to follow events in the US keenly as the country decides whether to keep Barack Obama in office or replace him with Republican candidate Mitt Romney. Just before I wrote this piece, the buzz on Facebook and Twitter was about the second public debate between Obama and Romney. 

The debates between the two presidential candidates always get people talking but personally it got me thinking. My mind has been toying with the idea of establishing public debates in schools especially for those seeking to be student leaders. 

Schools often allow students to campaign for posts as prefects and the process is almost similar to what happens in the world out there. The students submit their names and then they are vetted by the teachers. The ones with poor academic or discipline records are kicked off the list early enough leaving those that the school administration feels are able to lead fellow student. 

Once the final lists are out, students move from class to class and to the dormitories trying to convince their colleagues to vote them into office. What I think would be interesting is if schools organised a public debate at least for the top post of head boy or head girl. 

The aspiring leaders should be asked to explain the plans they have for the school and student population. And because of this, students can be sure of getting a leader who will easily present their issues to the school administration without stammering.  

Such an event would ensure that whoever is elected as a leader is not just a student who is popular but one who can also confidently answer random questions without losing his/her temper as well as coherence in speech. It is such students that can grow up to take on this world with confidence and eloquence. 

Away from the debates, I ask you all to pray for a little girl called Malala Yousafzai who was shot in the head and neck by the Taliban fighters in Pakistan. Her crime – advocating for education rights for girls like herself. She is in critical condition with a bullet possibly lodged close to her brain. 

However what is even more annoying is that the Taliban have vowed to kill her if she survives the gunshot wounds she got. According to the New York Times, the spokesman for the Taliban considers Ms Yousafzai’s crusade for education rights as an obscenity. It is a shame that this young girl can be considered a threat by the militia. Sad indeed.

By Allan Senyonga

SFB named top tech-savvy varsity

The School of Finance and Banking (SFB) has been ranked the best tech-savvy university in Rwanda. It also ranks  among the top one hundred East African Universities in the 2012 survey conducted by the CPS Research International, a social and market research company based in Kenya.

Over 250 institutions of higher learning including fully-fledged universities, constituent colleges and higher education institutes in Kenya, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda were part of the survey.

According to a report released yesterday, SFB took the lead with 12.08 points out 15 points followed by National University of Rwanda with 11.63 points; Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) with 10.93, Kigali Institute of Health with 9.36 and Universite Libre de Kigali in fourth position.

 The survey was carried out between April and October 2012 mostly dwelling on how universities and other institutions of higher learning in this region have embraced the use of ICT in teaching and enhancing quality and effective education.

 The results of the survey were used to rank the best 100 institutions in East Africa in adapting the use of ICT in enhancing quality university education. 

“CPS Research International conducted face-to-face interviews with institutions that granted formal interviews and also obtained information about the universities from reliable secondary data sources,” continued the report

 Research analysts in consultation with various stakeholders in higher education from both Africa and other continents analysed the data collected from every institution and compiled the results that showed the top 100 institutions in the East Africa.

Overall, Uganda’s Makerere University Business School took the lead with 13.49 points out 15 points followed by Strathmore University from Kenya with12.84points, Busitema University from Uganda came third with 12.28 and SFB was fourth with 12.08 points.

The report also observes that East African universities have embraced ICT and are competing favourably with international universities in this area.

“ICT has opened up East African universities in sharing and access of academic materials, research materials and corporate social responsibilities information. The use of websites, subscribing to academic journals, use of intranet, social media and other e-Learning tools has revolutionised the academic sector in East Africa” stated the document.

Kenyan universities are said to be leading in the use and accessibility of ICT in education in East Africa while Burundi is lagging behind, CPS observes.

Medical students go hi-tech

The US-based Tulane University on Tuesday donated 97 Galaxy tablets to medical students of the National University of Rwanda (NUR) to help them research during their studies.

The Samsung Galaxy tablets, which cost over $37 000 (over Rwf 22 million), were donated under the Tablets for Medical Education (T4ME) programme which seeks to improve the use of technology among medical students and practitioners. The computers were handed over by the Rwanda Office of Tulane.

The gadgets are expected to enhance education and information sharing between the medical students and lecturers.

According to Prof Patrick Kyamanywa, the dean of the Faculty of Medicine, the gadgets are a boon to future medical practitioners.

He told The New Times that the gadgets will take students outside the classroom setting to search for information not provided in class.

“What we are targeting is to ensure that students are able to read beyond what the lecturer gives them, especially because medical knowledge broadens every day,” Kyamanywa said.

“It is like you give them [students] the skeleton and they build the muscles and the body around that because there is a lot [to learn outside what the lecturer gives],” Kyamanywa explained.

Kyamanywa noted that through this, students are likely to improve their knowledge and performance.

“We expect students to be able to answer and discuss more problems in the field of medicine,” he said, emphasising that the tablets have been loaded with books and other resources, including applications, which relate to their field of study.

Dr Nancy Beth Mock, the Country Director of Tulane University-Rwanda office, noted that in this era, the use of iPads and other modern technologies is becoming crucial.

“If I look back to years when laptops were the thing, it made a big impact [in education].

I expect there will be even more for the tablets because they are accessible to students

anywhere they are: whether sitting, in a bus or while jogging”, she said.

She said the gadgets are more accessible and user friendly, adding that the mobility and easy use would make them powerful tools than laptops.

“Because of the technological infrastructure that the country has laid, it becomes possible to push technology to its limit to develop needed human resources. I believe, for that work, Rwanda is going to be a development case study for other countries to learn from”, Dr. Mock added.

A beneficiary from the medical school, Sylvie Inyange Musoni, observed that by simplifying information sharing and knowledge exchange, available technologies were shaping the education sector for the society’s benefit.

“Access to resources is something important. With today’s technologies, you have the ability to easily read yourself and  increase knowledge which in turn you use while serving the society”, Inyange said.

By Jean Pierre Bucyensenge

Teachers demystify maths phobia

Teachers say that students’ fear of mathematics is a factor behind the general poor performance of students in schools.

According to several teachers who talked to this newspaper in a mini-survey, students perform poorly in the subject due to the existing phobia.

It is a sad reality that the fear starts from home at a child’s tender age, when parents identify the subject to children as the most troublesome.

Parents play a pivotal role in children’ math attitudes and skills, starting at a tender age. Charles Karamaga, a maths teacher and a head teacher of Kayonza Modern School, notes that many parents unconsciously teach children to fear maths.

“A parent who reacts to a child’s mathematics questions or homework by saying, I have never been good in math, or, I haven’t done math in my life, sends wrong message to kids that math is not possible and they probably can’t do it either,” he says.

It is also on record that most teachers knowingly or unknowingly discourage learners from doing maths in schools.

This is true particularly in a situation where such teachers failed to succeed in the subject while in school.

Such scenario, according to Charles Karamaga sets a very negative precedent and has been students’ undoing for quite some time.

“It is unfortunate that some teachers still discourage students from doing maths depending on their background. We are trying to reverse the trend by educating teachers to avoid such discouragement. You know mere utterance from a teacher that maths is tough is enough to keep away hundreds of students,” observes the head teacher.

Teachers at Kayonza Modern School, one of the schools that perform well in the country admit that they have not been at the top, due to absence of maths culture in their school.

“We had the second and third best science students in the the province we are second to none. But, in maths we were not doing well...students pass with A’s in all subjects and end with failure in maths. This must end,” said one maths teacher.

There are some university faculties that some school leavers can never dream of joining after high school, due to poor or none maths background.

In fact, even Kayonza Modern, regarded as one of the best performing science schools in Eastern Province, and indeed the whole country, had no maths as a subject at Advanced Level until recently.

“The absence of maths combination has kept our students away from applied mathematics in higher institutions. We recently introduced combinations like PCM, PEM, etc, to address the issue,” admitted Karamaga.

Maths is the mother of all subjects that when one fails it, they will certainly go wrong in other subjects. 

Researchers and educationists admit that a student who fails maths will not do well in other subjects, particularly sciences.

All subjects have got elements of maths and students with no basic knowledge of the subject will always find it tough to sail through.

Richard Gakwerere, a student at KIST, notes that girls are the worst affected by the existing maths phobia. 

 “We shouldn’t be surprised that there are few girls in science and technology. It is all about girls’ poor performance in maths,” he explained.

“It is true that you will find very few students in applied sciences and maths in universities, but the numbers are alarming when it comes to girls. Girls’ maths phobia is exacerbated by cultural know the ‘tough things are not for females’ belief. Female have to go for soft things; attitude, coupled with the maths phobia, compounds the issue,’ he said. 

Teachers, however, believe that creating a school environment that motivates learners to do maths and sciences was an important step.

A school must have laboratories of all subjects with a kind of decorated environment that attracts even the laziest learner.

“A school environment that promotes science and maths teaching and learning is essential. You need beautiful science labs to attract learners’ attention,” Gakwerere observes.

By Stephen Rwembeho

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mandatory entry into EAC varsity forum

The Inter University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) is currently working to ensure that all universities in the region are mandatory members of the regional body.

Currently, of the 22O higher institutions of learning in East Africa, only 93 are members of IUCEA.

“At the moment, it is voluntary, but once the new law is enacted by next year, then it will be mandatory for any higher institution of learning in the region to be part of the body,” IUCEA Executive Director, Prof. Mayunga Nkunya, said during the just concluded Higher Education Forum in Arusha.

The new legislation, according to Nkunya, will have benchmarks to ensure quality academic standards.

Regional ministers in charge of higher education will meet in Kigali early next month to discuss the act before sending it to the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) for enactment.

“The ministers want the act to be in place as soon as possible because the current law is too weak and it doesn’t address issues pertinent to the region,” Nkunya said.

Meanwhile, participants at the EAC Higher Education Forum organised by IUCEA, yesterday derided regional universities that still don’t meet quality standards and called for a strict quality assurance framework.

Kenya’s EAC youth ambassador, Milly Mbedi, emphasised the need for scrapping off the current requirement of student passes, saying that this contravenes the free movement of people as provided in the Common Market Protocol.

“We would like to see more tailored courses at universities that will give way to job makers as opposed to job seekers like the situation is today,” Mbedi added.

Burundi’s EAC Youth Ambassador, Desire Bigirimana, said it was important to involve industries in the development of university curriculum and development of research projects.

By Gashegu Muramira

Friday, October 26, 2012

Adult education offers second chance

Gerardine Nyiramabindo’s experience is a bitter-sweet story. 

Despite her will and devotion to study, she never got a chance to go to school at a tender age.

And, unfortunately, those who were supposed to take Nyiramabindo, now 35, to school were the ones who violated her right to education.

As she remembers how she missed the chance to go to school 25 years ago, her heart is engulfed in grief.

“My parents are the ones who prevented me from attending school. They told me that going to school would prevent me from getting time to help my grandmother,” she laments.

The first day Nyiramabindo entered class was her last one as well.

“When I went to school for the first time, my father was very angry that he even beat me,” she bitterly recalls. 

“I was very sad but could not do anything against the will of my parents. So, I dropped out,” Nyiramabindo reminisces.

Nyiramabindo grew up in the rural Ruramba sector of Nyaruguru district. She was born to illiterate parents- who ironically wanted her to follow in their foot steps of illiteracy. 

“They did not understand the value of enrolling us in school,” she says.

The ‘forced drop-out’ from school affected her life and, in the long run, she lost interest in education.

“Even when I got children, I was adamant to take them to school. But I later changed my mind,” she adds.

Back to school

The nature of her job compelled the mother of five to take literacy lessons to cope with the situation.

In fact, Nyiramabindo, who operates a retail store in her village, says she got energised to enrol when she realised that she was losing money due to illiteracy and that she could not access certain services.  

“Some dishonest clients used to cheat me because of my poor counting skills,” she regrets.

Therefore, Nyiramabindo thought it wise to acquire writing skills and she ultimately joined an adult literacy programme in her home area.

Six months later, Nyiramabindo is now able to read, write and count.

The woman is one of the 614 adults, drawn from various parts of Nyaruguru district, who successfully completed a six month literacy programme.

The programme came to an end last Wednesday with the awards of certificates to the graduates.

The course was spearheaded by the Pentecostal Church of Rwanda (ADEPR) with financial support from CHF International, an international non-governmental organisation.

Like Nyiramabindo, many of the graduates felt that a little education could help improve their lifestyles, and they enrolled to the programme.

For them, knowing how to read, write and do basic calculations is essential in doing business and other income generating activities.

Damascene Nyirimana, 20, dropped out in primary two due to lack of discipline and commitment.

“Parents used to send me to school, but instead I could go to a nearby business centre and spend the whole day loitering,” he remembers with regret.

“It is when I grew up that I realised that education is important in life.”

A few months ago, Nyirimana remembers that he could not use a mobile phone due to lack of reading skills.

“I could not type names or phone numbers,” he says. “It was really deplorable.”

He adds, “Today, I know how to write and can easily change settings in a phone.

I also have the ability to read letters, newspapers and books. I believe this is important in my life in this era.”

Research into adult education shows that although adults who choose to go to school passed their 50s or even 70s have justified reasons. 

Some adults may join classes, not because they want to use their new literacy skills but because they want to join the literacy set. 

Such reasons relate to social status. They feel that other people (especially the literate group) regard them with scorn because they cannot engage in the dominant textual communications. 

Others want to learn literacy skills because they want to accomplish some literacy task. Several aspire to read the Bible or the Quran. Others join adult literacy classes, not to learn literacy skills for use but for the opportunities the course will subsequently provide. 

In a study done in Botswana, some adults said they had joined because literacy is a pre-requisite to getting a driving licence. In some contexts, obtaining a loan is dependant on being able to read and write. 

In Nepal, some adults came to classes because with the certificate of literacy they obtained at the end of the course, they could become Community Health Volunteers. 

Through adult literacy programme ran by the Pentacostal church, over 400 000 individuals from across Rwanda have now gained literacy skills since 1999, according to Rev. Jean Sibomana, the church’s legal representative.

Sibomana says the programme is part of the broad efforts to eradicate illiteracy, a major barrier to people’s development and welfare.

“Education is important in shaping people’s minds, changing their behaviours and bringing them to contribute actively to building a strong nation,” he observes.

In August this year, the National Adult Literacy Programme of the Pentecostal Church in Rwanda won the 2012 UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize in recognition for their contribution in promoting literacy programmes.

By Jean Pierre Bucyensenge