Think of these schools as Chinese I-Phones; they look like original I-Phones, but they are worse than ZTE; the authentic Chinese telephone brand.
Normally university is a broad experience that goes beyond school and books. It is a social experience of the city and the people. Children who study in the west are thus expected to comeback with a worldview of a New Yorker, a Londoner or a Bostonian. Except, this would be possible if our children studied in secular, open environments, using standard curricula
Unfortunately: Rwandan children are sent to substandard schools – or worse, dogmatic monasteries: The ones that actually believe in a God-given duty to save poor countries; like Rwanda for example…
So we frequently hear that children of so and so minister or businessman, study at the Mormon University of Utah, the Jesuit Institute of Wyoming, or the Quakers’ college of Nebraska.
Alternatively, they will be studying in the London School of Commerce (LSC); a ‘Jua Kali’ shady school, purposely named LSC, Yes-to-be-confused with LSE – the renowned London School of Economics and Political Science.
But most parents have no frame of reference to differentiate standard universities and dodgy community colleges. Normally if you knew exactly what these schools are, you wouldn’t wish your enemy’s children to go there.
Then again, this has nothing to do with educating children, does it? It is all about social status in Kigali.
How I know this? Because it almost got me into trouble recently: See, I went with my family to visit a sibling at Riviera High School. Now, Riviera is a great school, except, that is where the who’s who meet and brag.
While we were there, this lady walks up to where we are seated and says:
– Yoo, amakuru?
– Ni Meza,
– Where is your elder son?
– Oh, he is in America, in West Virginia!
– Oh, I am sure he frequently meets his friends; you know my first and second ones? They are in Oregon!
Now, I have never been to America, but I know some geography, so I think for a minute, then I go: wait! that would be difficult…
– All I know is that Oregon and West Virginia couldn’t be further apart: You know the first is on the Atlantic and the second on the Pacific coast – I say…
Both parents turn and give me the look, and instantly I feel like a ‘najuwa’
– Children have their ways… they finally comment, evasively.
– It must be expensive for you isn’t it? says the lady;
– Oh no, we manage, how about you?
Suddenly it hits me: These parents are not talking about their children; they are comparing the sizes of their… ‘pockets’
The fact that their children are being indoctrinated with Jehovah Witness beliefs in the deep cold of North Dakota is subsidiary. What matters is this moment here at the lawn of Riviera High School. And me, the impertinent downer, I am raining on their parade.
Ignoring me, they go on a ping-pong rant of fallacies they both believe on the virtues of western education:
1) Schools overseas give your children more ‘critical thinking’
– Really? I interject – but only in my mind this time; I don’t want to be disowned…
That is fine if you are happy with the fact that your children have Miley Cirus and Justin Bieber as their idols, and their history knowledge limited to the fact that Christopher Columbus discovered America; that Africa is a country and Rwanda? Well, that is just somewhere in Africa where we need to bring democracy (I’m caricaturing, but you see the point)…
2) She goes again: living overseas make our children more open.
– What? (Smiling slightly to contain my perplexity) Go visit them one day: most live on a farm or in small conservative towns – which I describe above – The kind of folks that elect Sarah Palin and Mit Rumney as governors…
When they finally get out, it is not to go visit museums, art galleries, the Library of the Congress, etc., especially if they’ve never visited the National Library in Kacyiru here; No; they go out to a baseball game between two local teams and it is called the ‘world series’…
How do you expect them to get a job here – and remember, it is regional integration, soon we’ll have kids from Nairobi and Kampala, who know how to hassle; Unless you plan to hire them yourselves, innocent kids who talk about basketball and Jay-z don’t get jobs in Kigali – you can ask them, they will usually be hanging around coffee shops, speaking distinctive ‘muzungu’ accents – with no job!
Here in Africa, critical thinking is a life skill. If you don’t have it you freaking die! Openness likewise: some of us are landlocked, so we have the proverbial need to open up to develop. therefore, you shouldn’t let anyone tell you that you will find openness and critical thinking in self-sufficient societies. Shallowness? Yes; selective promotion of values? Maybe. But critical thinking? You can have that anywhere…
3) That since America is the leading country in technology and economy, your child will make us all rich when they comeback? Sure, I suppose you sent your child to Harvard or MIT. No? Oh well, black people – like your child, who go to community colleges – like your child, are poor and tend to live in New Orleans: you can Google it; its much worse than Kigali.
Since we are throwing cliches around; have you not noticed? All geniuses and millionaires in America are white Jews. If black Americans haven’t been able to breakthrough after 200 years of trying, what makes you think that your black Christian child will go, see and conquer; all the way from Nyarutarama?
Here are the signs that you are wasting your money and your child’s future:
– If most students at that university are foreigners – from developing countries;
– If the schools’ domain name does not end with ‘ac’ or ‘edu’ (i.e. www.domain.edu) that means they did not qualify as a standard higher learning institution and their degrees are probably not recognised.
But the one indicator that really can’t deceive you, is if your child comes back dumber than when they left – then maybe you should consider servicing your loans and sending them to UR instead…
The truth is, at bachelor’s degree level, the education at the University of Rwanda is just fine! Where all our taxes and efforts are put to give our children the best education Rwanda can offer. Where the lecturers regard education as a civic duty to educate Rwanda’s future generation; and not the 25 to 30 thousand Dollar annual rip off, being sold to you as Godsend charity.
Then after UR, they will be mature and able to select what they want to learn; so, feel free to send them to Alaska for further studies; Personally, I would recommend Hawaii, at least they can have some fun while they claim to be getting knowledge.
Accordingly, if you want to send your children to Ivy-League, or Oxford or University of London, congratulations: that is really good education. If you can’t, then send them to Asia. Their schools are not Ivy League, or Oxford, but they are of very good standard, in rapidly developing and highly dynamic cities. Don’t send them to America to have substandard education.
Like I said before, if you want to buy an I-Phone, buy an I-Phone, or a ZTE. but don’t buy the one, thinking that you are buying the other.
Posted 16th November 2014