The University of Rwanda Senior Management Council (SMC) ordinarily takes place every two weeks. Chaired by the Vice Chancellor (VC) via Webex as is common nowadays, the other members are the deputy vice-chancellors (DVCs), six UR college principals and campus administrators.
Monday’s SMC was no exception, apart from the fact one of the vice chancellors, Ambassador Dr. Charles Murigande, attended his last.
He is quitting public service a whole four years ahead of the mandatory 65 years of age, Dr. Murigande, after the Prime Minister’s Office last Friday gave a nod to his application for early retirement. He had served the university for four good years.
As for me, being quite new here, this was only my second sitting with the senior leadership in the three weeks I have so far worked for this esteemed only public university in Rwanda. For this reason I had only a single previous meeting to compare the atmosphere of this particular one too.
Like last time, with just 11 members seated, the boardroom which normally accommodates over 30 people was nearly full, thanks to social distancing rules put in place for protection of employees from the spreading coronavirus. As well, there was almost zero disruption to the flow of this virtual meeting, unlike the last time round – whatever right buttons the IT specialists pressed, due credit to them.
The usual chair with good demeanor, Professor Philip Cotton looked well composed and in control throughout the two and a half hours it lasted. He guided his colleagues through the agenda with a clear resolve to succinctly adhere to the exact duration he had right at the start promised the meeting would last. Running meetings strictly over the length of time planned is a skill many retire before mastering.
So what exactly transpired, you may ask. Stuff of management meetings is rarely for public consumption. That is why the deliberations from the eight items on the agenda, discussed in two hours are of little or no mention at all in this space.
Probably you wouldn’t even find them interesting, minutes of the meeting, were they to be published here. Instead an item not even on the agenda, which took the closing 30 minutes of the meeting, it was easily agreed, that sharing comments thereof would enhance goodness generally. Amb. Dr. Charles Murigande retirement was that item.
It was kicked off by Vice Chancellor Prof. Cotton when he asked his colleagues whether any of them wished to say something about the parting elder. Dr. Guillaume Nyagatare, Principal for College of Agricultural Sciences & Veterinary Medicine (CAVM) took the floor first.In his precise statement, he said it was a privilege for him “to have something to say about Dr. Murigande. His image of a humble person is so striking. A story is told in our circles of how he often takes to sweeping his office himself, with gladness. It was really an honour for me to work with and under him.”
Next was Dr. Alphonse Mulefu, Principal for College of Arts & Social Sciences. “I have said it directly to Charles that he exhibits professionalism and humility in equal measure. His approach towards work and people, I greatly admire,” he said.
Third was Dr. George Njoroge. “Charles, it has been a pleasure working with you. I remember my time at Kigali Institute of Education when you were Minister of Education. That time I had no board, yet quite conveniently you were my reference. I never lacked. So passionate you are, and your character has been true to form up until today. Service beyond self, giving it your all has defined your career. Go well,” said he.
Dr. Ignace Gatare, Principal, College of Science & Technology (CST) had his time too. “I was privileged to benefit from your guidance which I needed most when I joined cabinet only one year after my doctorate studies. You have extraordinary mentorship skills. To many people you are a great inspiration, an inexhaustible resource. One outstanding attribute I wish to mention is your ability to give concise feedback. Comments in documents shared with you always come back with right words in the right place. You have left a legacy, which hopefully gives you the satisfaction that you contributed well.”
For Dr. Jeanne Kagwiza, the lady Principal of College of Medicine & Health Sciences (CMHS), it was nice and moving. “We are going to miss you. We shall miss your wisdom. I would like to thank you most especially for easily, always finding you whenever I needed your support. Never will I ever forget the support rendered to me when I faced the challenge of staff management. That was tremendously kind of you. May God protect you”.
The Vice-Chancellor had this to say before inviting Dr. Murigande to sign off. “We celebrate your humility Charles. That students were able to access you as easily as they did is an approach to management that we all would do well to emulate. Your contribution to institutional efficiency and working well with teams has been quite remarkable. Certainly I would like to be like you when I grow old”.
Finally, now, Charles, as he fondly signs off his messages, got his time. He said, “I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for the kind words of appreciation and encouragement. I am deeply touched. My feeling over the weekend after witnessing the sentiments expressed to me was like – may be what I have done thus far came from God.
“And I w’as thinking, may be if I had persevered longer and God forbid, collapsed dead on my desk, you would still say the same things about me. Only I would never have had the chance to hear them. I have been surprised by how nice the messages of appreciation have been. I think God did it. Only He could take the little I did and multiplied, the way He did with the biblical five loaves of bread which He multiplied to feed five thousand people.
“He preserved and presented me favourably to you. Rest assured of my availability to keep serving in a good way. You can confidently count on me, and the country can count on me for any support within my means. Thank you for the love – I love you too.
God bless you all.”
The author is Division Manager,
Communications, Internationalization & Alumni Relations,
University of Rwanda