Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

15 January 2013

Rwanda: Oklahoma University Expands to Rwanda

A US-based prestigious higher learning institution, Oklahoma Christian University, has entered a venture to establish a regional 'school of excellence' in Rwanda, university officials have announced.

"We are planning to create a senior school called "Central Africa School of Excellence and we are partnering with the government of Rwanda," pointed out Dr Mike E. O'Neal, president emeritus of Oklahoma Christian University.

The academic made the plan public on Tuesday evening after meeting President Paul Kagame at Village Urugwiro. O'Neal was accompanied by other delegates from the university as they are in the country to finalize some preliminary planning.

The education ministry says the school will be set up in Rukatsa cell, Kagarama sector of Kicukiro district, a district that is dedicated to become the "Knowledgeable Hub," according to the city's master plan.

So far, the venture is at the stage of checking whether architectural plans fit with the city's master plan provisions.

The project, which is to be implemented in phases, will start with a secondary school boarding of excellence, but the ultimate goal is to expand it up to university level, according to both education ministry and the Oklahoma University delegates.

Talking to journalists, O'Neal said that Rwanda was not chosen by accident to host the university's regional school of excellence, but it was done following several reasons as the university wanted to set up a campus somewhere in Africa.

"They want to find a country that is receptive to education, a country that is receptive to partner. So they found out our relationship with Rwanda and decided that this was the place to do it," O'Neal told journalists. "And we've been pleased with that decision because President Kagame and your government have been very supportive with this project."

It is expected that the American scholars will be able to open the school by the end of 2015.

The project will be the university's first initiative to set up a physical campus in Rwanda, but will not be the first partnership in education. Over the last nine years, Oklahoma Christian University has had a very vibrant relationship with Rwanda's education sector, and currently the university hosts 60 Rwandan students on Oklahoma campus and 60 students on e-learning program in Kigali. The e-program offers MBA and this is the second year of operation.

Vincent Biruta, the Minister of Education, commended the initiative, saying that it will bring an excellent experience that will serve as a model for local schools and universities. "Their outstanding experience in education will be another added value to our education sector," said Biruta, adding that local institutions will learn a lot from them make further improvement.

According to the Minister, the school will not only serve Rwandans - given that there are even those who used to get out of the country for the sake of excellence in education - but also the school will attract students from neighboring countries.

For one, this could be seen as another milestone towards Rwanda's vision to build a knowledge-based economy. It would also be another step made to realizing the country's dream to become an educational hub in the region. In this context, another US-based prestigious university, Carnegie Mellon University, which is offering a Masters Degree in IT, opened its doors in Kigali last year.

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