Rwanda’s higher education needs improvement
Written by: Administrator
Tuesday, July 11th, 2017, 9:45
Rwanda’s higher education needs improvement
The former Vice-Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi University Rwanda, Dr. Vince Sinining talked to Light Magazine about Rwanda’s higher education sector, where he worked for the past year.
Dr. Sinining is a Professor of Sustainable Development and Adviser to select Permanent Missions to the United Nations in New York. He has been a professional educator since 1988 in the US, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, and Africa. He lived in Rwanda from July 2016 where he served as a Vice-Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi University Rwanda campus up until his resignation in June 2017. He currently serves as an independent consultant and travels regularly, doing research, giving lectures and speeches, and providing capacity-building training and workshops. Below is an interview with;
The Light Magazine (TLM): In the June 2017 issue of Light Magazine, you wrote an article on the quality of Higher Education crisis in Rwanda. What is your latest assessment on the problem?
Dr. Sinining: My yearlong stay in Kigali was very pleasant. The development of the country as a whole is commendable. I had the honour to meet various Ministers and Educational Leaders. Almost every sector in Rwanda underwent commendable development. But I agree with the views of the majority that the Higher Education Sector needs attention. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) need to work on the effectiveness of "teaching" by the instructors and the quality of "learning" among the students.
TLM: In March of 2017, the Higher Education Council suspended many institutions. What are your views on the suspension?
Dr. Sinining: The suspension issued by the Honourable Minister of Education in March 2017 to HEIs is the result of the findings of the independent body of external auditors who conducted audits and assessments of HEIs in Rwanda in October 2016. The audit reports highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of the HEIs. Those who were suspended were given the time to resolve the issues. I personally supported the actions of the MINEDUC and HEC. The suspension was a bold step to remind HEIs that Rwanda is moving forward towards providing quality education to Rwandans to enable them to become highly qualified individuals. You may have observed that many HEIs focused on increasing student enrolment yet lagged behind in increasing academic excellence and quality of education. The absence of the latest technologies and equipment, highly qualified teachers, libraries, laboratories and other facilities, not to mention quality service to students -- make it impossible to guarantee effective and quality education to the students.
TLM: What do you think are the remedies to the problems you mentioned?
Dr. Sinining: If you look at the HEC Website, you will find several documents for HEIs to review and follow, including the ODL Mode. If HEIs will follow them, there is no doubt the quality of education in Rwanda will be better. The HEC laws and guidelines are very specific. The government passed several laws that govern the quality of education in the country. The HEC Law specifically contain guidelines for HEIs such as the composition of the University Senior Management Team, the responsibilities of the Vice-Chancellor and the rest of the Academic Staff among others. It is like a bible for HEIs. I encourage all HEIs to go through them. As a former Vice-Chancellor, the law passed in March 2017 contain very specific guidelines. If you ask other VCs in private institutions, you will probably get the same answer that most owners of private institutions have full control of all areas of management and finance instead of allowing VCs to do their jobs, as clearly specified on the HEC law. I did have the chance to review the law early in June 2017 after my last meeting with HEC officials on behalf of the institution I represented then. However, I resigned from my post days after.
TLM: What was the reason of your resignation?
Dr. Sinining: The reason mainly was "personal."
TLM: What is your reaction to the bad rumours going around about your resignation?
Dr. Sinining: They are rumours right? If the rumours don't apply to you -- let it fly. Those who spread these rumours are the kinds of people you need to avoid. Educated professionals don't do such kind of thing. There is a saying perfect for this situation: "let no man pull you low enough to hate him." Anyone who has a problem with anyone--- there is a proper place to deal with it -- the Courts. Let the "rule of law" decide if the person is guilty. You can easily tell that those spreading the rumours are mostly the ones with "lots of illegal activities" to hide. I am glad you asked this question because days after my resignation, my personal email address and family FB account have been hacked. Authorities have traced the hackers but at this time, I am letting it go. I have nothing to hide so I am not wasting my time to chase these "criminals" who invaded my privacy. I have other important priorities to do -- helping individuals to be better.
TLM: Any advice to Rwandan students?
Dr. Sinining: I am motivated by so many Rwandan students who are so passionate about pursuing higher education. Most of the students I have encountered save their money just to pay for the fees; some only eat once a day to be able to cover other cost (books, projects, transportation, etc.). Many of the fees are unfairly high and you can tell that owners of HEIs are focusing on the "income" being generated and not necessarily on the "quality of education". However, in Rwanda you can see few institutions doing their job. I can mention a few like the University of Rwanda, the University of Kigali among others. There are also excellent institutions in Rwanda like the Carnegie Mellon University, Global Health -- and yes, they are expensive. But if you go over their programs, service, and facilities then you know that whatever you pay is worth it. My advice to the Rwandan students is to find an institution that provides quality education --- regardless of the cost. The end result is worth of all the sacrifices. After all, the greatest investment one can give to himself or herself is education.