The month of September 2020 is imprinted in the mind of every Rwandan somehow related with school in one way or another. This is the time when all schools (pre-primary, primary, secondary, TVET and tertiary) are scheduled to resume business fully-fledged, despite COVID-19.
The University of Rwanda, the country’s sole public university, also by far the biggest, is up. Activity is gearing up every other day, be it at Gikondo UR headquarters or at the six colleges and three campuses across the country. We are less than two months away from September erega.
Right, left and center within this mega organization, working committees have been set up, meetings are becoming more frequent as work on the institutional readiness takes off full throttle. Understandably the Vice Chancellor Prof. Phillip Cotton’s energies have been stirred up by the unenviable roll to coordinate.
His life is looking fully taken up by the intensified responsibilities that seem to pretty much motivate him too. And this I find normal and inspiring, even when he never forgets to urge teams to always be keen on activities which do not require money to implement.
He also likes to put this question to his colleagues and staff: what is it we can only do during COVID-19 times that we otherwise would never have been able to do in normal times? What a rallying cry! It makes us see the pandemic as an opportunity to be creative and innovative instead of curving in to its tendency to hinder thoughtfulness for growth.
Education in my view has been hit quite hard, first by total and now partial lockdown, than most. The only single worst affected sub-sector is tourism, reason being that Rwanda’s still depends to a large extent on external factors.
Yet the education sub-sector of the economy in this country will be much better soon in-spite of the setback, thanks to government’s scaled up attention to the social sector. In a recent presentation to Parliament by the Minister of Finance, an impressive Rwf 492.0 billion was allocated to education.
This represents about 15% of the total national budget. Handsome figures have been committed to reducing overcrowding in classrooms as well as shortening distances travelled to find the nearest school.
Also to benefit from this nice shot in the arm will be feeding in schools, ICT facilities, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), English proficiency and further operationalization of Centers of Excellence.
Having seen how all this looks fabulous, we almost certainly knew these designs to improve things in one area would be possible only if sacrifices were found. Top on the causality list will be conferences, training retreats, working tours both in the country and abroad, refreshments at work placees (a.k.a ibyayi) and other items that constitute recurrent expenditure.
These are perceived as falling among the non-essential category – remove them and life continues normally. I am reminded of ingendo zitari ngombwa, which motor cyclists are up to this day still wondering which criteria were applied (those days) to have them categorized therein.
More about motorcyclists, a story is trending. It has been told to many who have lately moved from one place to another with their help (baguhetse).
Ngo had it not been for President Kagame’s direct intervention to categorically overrule advice from some of his cabinet members following Rusizi and Rubavu COVID-19 outbreaks, motor cyclists country-wide would by now still be home chilling. They thank him for the gift.
And for something a lot richer, the whole nation does thank you very much Mr. President. We thank you Sir for that great gift befitting the occasion of Liberation 26. You delivered it wrapped in your speech at Intare Arena on June 26 while you addressed the RPF extended National Executive Committee. You made remarks so reassuring.
You cemented the great belief in your leadership, refilled to the brim cups of confidence in RPF ideology. You showed how you care for accountability with a devotion bordering on obsession. Mr. President, the degree to which you scare wrong doers is not even comparable to the tremendous delight and hope your people derive.
You chose the best moment. In a season of near stunted growth, a year of losses to many, when the economy is projected to grow by a meager 2%, Rwandans needed most to hear those words said in that tone.
The message was like we should not worry about recovery from the COVID-19 caused economic downturn on one hand, because on the other you are so determined to save resources. You intend to plug the holes and stop any unnecessary bleeding, thank you very much again.
Rwandans saw it as a call to action, to stop it, and a senior cadre responded immediately with an assurance that you will not lack support. Rest assured Mr. President – for as long as you lead with that Godly wisdom and love, good followers will always be there for you in good numbers. Go on.