6 October 2017

Rwanda: Government Pledges to Improve Teachers' Welfare

Photo: Francis Byaruhanga/The New Times
A teacher at Kimisagara Primary School in Kigali conducts a lesson.

The government has reaffirmed its commitment to improving teachers' welfare.

The announcement was made yesterday as Rwanda joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Day of Teachers. The annual celebration highlights contribution of teachers to the education and development of citizens and nations.

The event was marked under the global theme, "Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers," with a focus on the welfare of higher education teachers and what this means for quality teaching in light of global ambitions under the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on inclusive and quality education for all.

The national celebrations took place in Rubavu District, Western Province, under the theme, "A capable teacher, pillar to quality education."

Isaac Munyakazi, the minister of state for primary and secondary education, said the Government firmly believes in improving teachers' welfare as shapers of nation's future.

"A qualified teacher who is passionate about their job is the real pillar of quality education. We are proud of their work and we are committed to improve their lives within our means, in terms of capacity building and welfare so as to keep improving quality of education," he said.

What teachers say

Josephine Kagaju, a primary teacher in Kamonyi District, said Teachers' Day enabled her to reflect on her role.

"We are proud of what we are doing and are doing everything possible to achieve our goals and deliver what the community expects of us," she said.

Evariste Karangwa, a lecturer at the University of Rwanda's College of Education, said Rwanda's education is significantly improving and inclusive due to political will to promote it, from nursery to higher education, through quality infrastructure.

He commended the new education system whose competency-based curriculum has led to a shift from teacher to student-centered approaches in teaching.

However, Karangwa said more efforts are needed to promote special needs education to help students with special needs get equipped with skills that can help them compete on the labour market.

There is need to increase teachers who deliver special needs education to make sure school dropout rates are significantly reduce," he said.

Teachers' welfare

Teachers from primary to higher learning education have formed savings and credit cooperatives, including Umwalimu Savings and Credit Cooperatives(SACCOs), for primary and secondary schools, and Caisse d' Entraide for University lecturers.

Teachers say this has been helpful in improving their everyday life through loans injected in different income generating projects.

There are about 62,000 primary teachers in the country.

Kagaju appealed to authorities for salary increase, and to consider cutting interest rates on their Sacco loans from to at least 10 per cent from current 14 per cent.

We love our job but that would be a motivation, she said.

Karangwa said improving teachers' welfare is instrumental in ensuring retention.

He suggested construction of staff accommodation and free education for teachers' children, among other the motivational schemes.

Meanwhile, teachers in private schools cited short-term contracts, and salary delays among their biggest challenges which could compromise quality education.

"The Government supports us improve our livelihood through different socio-economic transformation initiatives such as Girinka, Umwalimu SACCO... but salary irregularities and delays remain a concern for teachers in private schools," said Sylvere Nzakizwanayo, a teacher in a private school in Rubavu District.

"We need government intervention on this issue."

Alexis Mushumba, the head teacher of Martyrs Secondary School, a private school in Remera, Kigali, said this was due financial hardships private schools face.

However, Mushumba appealed to private schools' owners to always put teachers' interest before any other despite financial challenges.

"Private school head teachers should ensure timely payment of salaries for teachers to avoid slowing students' learning. Teachers have personal responsibilities that they need to meet such as providing for their families and other social needs," he said.

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