Starting next academic year, EAC universities and other institutions of higher learning will include regional integration in their curricula so as to enhance students' understanding of the integration process.
In an interview with The New Times, the outgoing chairman of Inter-University Council of East Africa (IUCEA), also the Rector of National University of Rwanda, Prof Silas Lwakabamba, said this was one of the resolutions reached at a recent meeting of IUCEA in Kigali.
"It's very important. You cannot move forward with integration without involving all regional citizens, that's why we have agreed on regional level to harmonise our curriculum that would accommodate the training of students on regional matters."
"We want these younger east Africans to grow when they're well conversant with the East African Community and this will help in regional economic development."
He, however, mentioned at his institution they had already started lecturing some EAC issues through different course units, citing economics and business studies and challenged other regional institutions to emulate them.
Justine Mutoni, a student of business studies at Kigali Independent University (ULK) pointed out that she had scanty knowledge about the community, stressing that more was needed to ensure that all students obtain regional integration knowledge.
"I know little about the EAC integration. I need to know a lot especially how we have benefited from the Community since our country joined," she told The New Times.
She observed that learning more abut the bloc, including interacting with other regional students, would help to spur the region's economic and social development agenda.
Amb. William Kayonga, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of EAC observed the ministry has stepped up sensitisation campaigns at the local level to ensure that citizens understand the meaning of the community.
"We have trained nationals on ministerial level, training teachers as well as holding public awareness with local leaders at cell level and we shall continue carrying out awareness to ensure that all Rwandans understand the community," he said.
Kayonga said soon the survey on what Rwandans think about the east African Community will be launched, adding that they will use the findings to fill in the remaining gaps for the benefit of all nationals.
Recently, head teachers representing 70 secondary schools from the Northern Province completed training on EAC stages of integration, including customs union, the common market protocol and political federation as was seen as initial instrument that would be used to impart more knowledge of integration process.
The teachers were equipped with information to help them sensitise students on the progress, benefits and relevancy of EAC integration.
Early last week, Institute for Regional Integration and Development (IRID) was launched in Nairobi at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). It will be offering EAC integration training among the regional students.
While launching the institute, Amb. Richard Sezibera, the EAC Secretary General, noted that for long, the region lacked structured and relevant training programmes on regional integration. And that the new institute responds appropriately to EAC's dynamic environment. He hailed the role IRID will now play in filling that gap.
The Secretary General noted that the IRID programme will be able to bring together students from Burundi, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda in unprecedented numbers to the institution and hence increase the level of cultural interaction while shaping a common vision for the region that will enhance mutual trust and understanding among the Partner States.
He expressed regret that most universities in the region were not doing enough to foster cutting-edge research, curb brain drain, replace run-down research infrastructure, raise salaries and provide education and training to meet immediate local needs.