BY Chantal Umuhoza
The interlinkages missing: Ensuring inclusive, equitable and public quality education in Rwanda by addressing structural inequalities
Chantal Umuhoza, Rwanda, RESURJ member, SPECTRA
A recent story published in the local media of a young girl who was found on the streets in Kigali late at night selling fruits while doing school homework has much to say on investment and interlinkage needed in Rwanda’s education sector.
Quality education and lifelong learning opportunities have the potential to transform societies but this needs strategic, adequate and domestically sourced funding. In addition, education investment has to go hand in hand with addressing other structural and systemic factors that hinder those most left behind to fully access their right to education.
Rwanda’s VNR reports that enrollment in free primary basic education is over 98%, however, the rate of enrollment doesn’t tell the full story.The report falls short on addressing the impact that the indirect costs of education have on families which may include school materials and uniforms, transport, food, water among others. These additional costs keep families in vicious cycles of poverty and deprivation, and keep children from attending school. Indirect costs drive families and school going children to struggle for survival means, like in the case of the girl in the story mentioned above.
Education therefore is intrinsically linked to other sectors and aspects including poverty eradication, gender responsive social protection and public services, universal health care, food security, decent housing, sanitation, violence free and peaceful environment.
Rwanda’s VNR reports on gender parity in education only in case of enrollment but doesn’t highlight progress in addressing other gender based barriers including the burden of care and domestic work on women and girls, household and school based gender based violence, access to comprehensive seuality education and sexual and reproductive health services especially to ensure prevention of unwanted pregnancies that contribute to school drop-out, poverty and vulnerability among others.
We welcome the link that the Rwanda’s VNR makes between education and public infrastructure and services including access to electricity, water, toilets and internet within the school environment. But we need to go further to also address the lack of public infrastructure and services at community levels that have an impact on the full realisation of the right to education, among the poorest.
More than 60% of Rwanda’s population is below 25 years. If realisation of a demographic dividend can be achieved for a sustainable, equitable and transformative society, adequate and strategic investment is crucial, targeting the out of school and unemployed youth in all aspects. Currently, there is a large population of young people that have dropped out of school, some that have completed secondary school but can’t afford the high costs in higher learning institutions and those that have finished higher learning but have failed to get employment or start up capital for businesses. This poses a risk of having future generations engraved in extreme poverty and related cycles. There is therefore a need to ensure that investment in education, training and skills development reflect the realities and needs of young people and that career development, social protection, and unemployment welfare systems are strengthened today.
Last but not least, the unskilled, gender perspective indifferent and underpaid teachers in public pre-school, primary and secondary schools pose a challenge to the realisation of quality and transformative education that teaches children, adolescents and youth critical thinking. Ensuring well trained professionals, decent work conditions and a satisfactory living wage of teachers is equally important