President Paul Kagame on Thursday defended government’s policy focusing on sciences – where by as reported by The Chronicles recently, 90% of funding for university government scholarships have been reserved for STEM courses.
In an unscripted speech to 698 youth and students who have completed a national mass mobilisation program “Itorero”, Kagame first asked how many were doing STEM courses, to which the vast majority of them put their hands up.
“Am very happy to see that majority of you are doing sciences,” he said at the RDF Combat Training Center, Gabiro, in eastern province.
Amid laughter, Kagame pointed out that ‘made in Rwanda’ shouldn’t stop at “producing tiles or baking bread and then branding them as made in Rwanda”.
“As you use these costly phones like iPhone, Samsung, BlackBerry and many others – always ask yourself ‘where is it made?’…’how is it made?’…’what is contained in it?’..’why is it such a trend?…’why does it so powerful?…”
Kagame added: “They ask for $1,000 for iPhone and you immediately pay. Why cant you make yours. Imagine producing it yourself. They are taking that amount of money from you because it has taken knowledge to produce it, it has increased value”.
“Why should such innovations be done by others but not us?…Isnt it the reason you go to school anyway?”, said Kagame, to which the military-clad youths responded in unison: “YES SIR!”.
He continued: “Even if I spoke perfect English, it cannot build me a house. A house from just languages can collapse on me,” said Kagame amid more lanughter from the audience.
However, President Kagame also cautioned that physical sciences are a foundation, but are not enough alone.
“It does not mean that we eliminate those doing other disciplines. Everything is knowledge,” said Kagame. “All people cannot do the same thing.”
In our special report “Who Is Manipulating Government’s University Education Policy?”, data presented showed how government had decided to sponsor university students on ‘STEM’ (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Officials from the University of Rwanda are quietly grumbling about the policy, which has, since it was introduced in 2017, seen nearly all social science courses dying from UR.
Speaking today, President Kagame said those learning computer programming will need perfect Kinyarwanda language imbedded such that the computer is able to spell-check Kinyarwanda words.
“One can study maths, engineering and science while another studies languages such that when we combine them they can produce a computer that has better Kinyarwanda language than the one I was alluding to earlier,” said Kagame, adding “Both will be able to produce a computer that writes ‘NTU’ instead of ‘NU’…”
Kagame had earlier in the speech warned that Kinyarwanda, which is a national and official language, would be erased if action was not taken to reverse the trend.
He said the nature of Kinyarwanda being spoken today was not Kinyarwanda. Spending a beter part of his address on the issue, Kagame gave various examples of how Kinyarwanda was being poorly spoken.
“You do not say ‘EGO‘, it is ‘YEGO‘,” he said, referring to “YES”.
“It is ‘UMUNTU‘, not ‘UMUNU‘,” he said of the Kinyarwanda word for person.
Kagame also specifically condemned the poor Kinyarwanda he said is used on the state broadcaster Radio Rwanda.
Itorero is a national mass mobilisation program attended by different sections of Rwandan society. It usually several weeks. Before anyone goes to university, every student must undergo the program.
This particular group released today included students studying from foreign universities or preparing to start, as well as those preparing to start at the National University of Rwanda. The group also included young professionals and entrepreneurs.
Earlier before Kagame’s speech, the group displayed rare military skills including battle craft, war map reading and martial arts.
Basic military drills are only a small part of the Itorero training. The biggest time is spent on lessons about Rwanda’s culture and development agenda.