The Netherlands government, through NUFFIC’s Netherlands Initiative for Capacity Building in Higher Education (NICHE), has greatly supported the TVET sector in Rwanda over the last 10 years. The programme strengthened the Workforce Development Authority in developing the Rwanda TVET Qualification Framework (RTQF) and ensuring the sector was guided by a TVET policy and strategy. These achievements are milestones in the journey Rwanda’s TVET sector has undertaken and are seen as the building blocks of a modern TVET that is relevant to the needs of the labour market, critical in the country’s social and economic development and in its aspiration to reach Middle Income Country status by 2035 and High-Income Country status by 2050.
The SEAD project continued to support the TVET sector, more specifically the Integrated Polytechnic Regional Colleges (IPRC) in Huye, Ngoma, Gishari, Kigali and Musanze. Through its sister project, SEADWest, also IPRC Karongi is supported. Rwanda Polytechnic, as institution established by the Government of Rwanda to implement Technical and Vocational Education and Training and skills development across the country through its component IPRCs, greatly benefited from the project’s interventions that were rolled out between 2015 and 2021. They are too many to address in this article and therefore allow me to zoom in on a few, in random order.
Being a Higher Learning Institute, Rwanda Polytechnic has a mandate to provide (formal) education, applied research and engage into community and outreach activities. Capacities and resources available have forced the institute to prioritize the activities related to education and research, resulting in community and outreach activities to be given less attention. The SEAD project helped us to bring this component back on the agenda by demonstrating that each of the components of the triangle (education, research, and extension services) inform and strengthen each other. Relations with the private sector, notably farmers, cooperatives, agribusinesses, and associations were strengthened through the project’s interventions as well as with the local authorities, with the district and sector agronomists and veterinarians.
The relationship with the private sector and local authorities that was nourished by the SEAD project also helped us in the development and review of a number of agricultural curricula such as the ones on food technology & processing, irrigation and drainage, animal production & health for the poultry value chain, crop production and horticulture. Participation of them was crucial in this process as the quality and relevance of these curricula is warranted through their inputs. We also need to commend the project on its contribution toward strengthening the capacities of our staff in applied research, an area where the TVET sector is still in its infancy, searching for its place in the education & research landscape. Providing young staff, with limited research experience and exposure, the opportunity to work together on research projects with their colleagues from the universities and with participants from the private sector, was greatly appreciated and helped us to understand what role TVET could play in this respect.
The establishment of Education-Enterprise Partnerships in Rwanda, coined by the project as Service Training and Innovation Centres (STIC), was one of the most novel components of the SEAD project, a component that forced the education and private sector in Rwanda to think outside of the box and come out of their respective comfort zones. Setting up these STICs as commercially viable businesses at our campuses, providing products or services to the market and serving to improve formal education, providing a platform for (applied) research, serving farmers with outreach & extension services, was clearly something we needed to get our heads around. We are grateful to see the establishment of the Poultry STIC at IPRC Ngoma and Gishari, the Horticulture STIC at IPRC Huye and IPRC Musanze to be part of both the Dairy and Potato STIC and can’t wait to see this concept not only sustained, but also scaled and replicated to other institutions and value chains.
Last, I would express my appreciation to the SEAD project for supporting the Rwanda Polytechnic in the development of no less than 8 policies that help us realize the strategic frameworks of RP’s 5-year strategic plan. Crucial policies on e-learning and applied research and Innovation, the project developed, with the involvement of all eight IPRCs the policies on academic staff appointments, development, career path & promotion, on gender and inclusion, on entrepreneurship & incubation, on anti-plagiarism & academic integrity, on outreach & extension, as well as the guidelines for curriculum development, program validation and approval process. To assist the implementation of these policies, SEAD provided to over 30 Middle Managers from RP and its IPRCs, thorough training in management and leadership as well as in project management.
As said, SEAD did more than can be captured in this article; the numerous interventions toward management & leadership, entrepreneurship, gender & inclusion, career guidance had all a great impact on our staff and institutions. Working with our colleagues from the universities, private sector, and local authorities, jointly catering for the needs of a value chain, have paved the way for rethinking how we ought to channel interventions in the future.
I wholeheartedly thank SEAD, and the people behind it, for the great contribution it made to our staff, our institutions, the TVET and agricultural sector and, not in the least, Rwanda.
Dr. James Gashumba
Vice Chancellor Rwanda Polytechnic