The New Times (Kigali)

26 November 2012

Rwanda: Vocational Training Is the Way Forward - Kagame

FOR Rwanda to achieve its development goals and be more competitive, the youth must embrace technical and vocational training, President Paul Kagame said yesterday.

Kagame was speaking at the close of a two-week retreat that brought together students who survived the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. The retreat was held at Nkumba in Burera district but the closing ceremony was at Petit Stade in Kigali.

The 478 youth, including 183 females, are grouped under AERG, a French acronym for Genocide Survivors Students Association.

The President described how the mainstream education system has not guaranteed employment. He argued that even with the increasing number of Universities, those who graduate can neither find employment nor create their own jobs.

He urged the youth not to despise jobs giving the examples of Germany, Singapore and South Korea that prospered as a result of exceptional technical and vocational skills and the hardworking nature of their labour force.

"There was a time when South Korea was at the same level as the African countries. Today, they are 100 times more advanced," Kagame said.

Kagame further explained, "They don't ignore jobs. What puts them a class apart is the skills they acquired from vocational and technical schools."

The President's call is in line with the modern global trend where conventional schooling is gradually giving way to Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) systems in a bid to fight the high rates of un-employment. TVET systems have turned the developed countries into the world's most industrialised nations. There have been lots of changes within society to the effect that the present grammar type of education can no longer be competitive in the 21st century. This has manifested in the high rates of unemployment among fresh graduates.

The Government of Rwanda has, of recent, put more focus on vocational and technical training as a way of streamlining the education system to suit the demands of the labour market.

"With our history, everything must change, but it all starts with the mindset," Kagame said, adding that the shunning of vocational education is a mindset challenge that must be done away with. Kagame emphasised that challenges such as access to finance are less difficult when compared to change of mindset and the fighting spirit, which the youth already have.

Among the main challenges the youth face today is unemployment.

The President pointed out that with a skilled labour force in technical education, more firms will set shop in Rwanda, consequently creating employment opportunities. He gave an example of Singapore where airplane engine factories have established factories as a result of the technical skills of the Singaporeans.

"These companies don't go to places because they have lawyers or economists, they set up the factories because of the skilled labour," Kagame explained.

At the same function the President commended the youth for their resilience, saying that while Rwandans were affected by the sad history, they have a fighting spirit.

Rwanda has the spirit of survival, of not giving up, he said, calling on the youth to build on that spirit to build a better future for themselves, the country and generations to come.

"You have to be competitive, the country has to be competitive," the President told the youth, adding that being a market leader is not by accident but a result of hard work.

Despite having experienced the lowest points of life as a result of the Genocide, Rwandans have come out strong and more determined to go beyond the sad history and take lead in creating a prosperous country.

AERG is proof of this. It shows the identity of a new Rwanda, Kagame told the youth.

"Our history is a sad story but we do not accept absurdity and ridicule in our sad story," Kagame emphasized.

The AERG retreat was held under the theme let's strive for the bright future while preserving our dignity.

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