Our last training day was a gem, with our site hosts arriving to participate in several sessions and with the US Ambassador to Rwanda addressing us.
Meet Dr. Balinda Ruteruka, the Director of the college where I will be teaching, and Jen Hedrick, our Country Director.
And a group photo with US Ambassador to Rwanda, Erica Barkes-Ruggles.
Ambassador Erica Barks-Ruggles spoke briefly, with great clarity, on priorities for Rwanda and their alignment with PC Rwanda’s program priorities. She commended the progress Rwanda has made and is making. For example, in the push to eliminate HIV, present projections predict that within 18 months Rwnda will become one of 3 nations in the world to achieve the 90-90-90 goal. That goal is that 90% of high risk individuals will have been tested and know their status, and of those who are HIV positive 90% will be on treatment, and of those 90% will have achieved a status of viral suppression. She also highlighted Rwanda’s success in reducing the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty.
She explained that teachers in Rwanda are facing a unique challenge. They typically have grown up in communities using Kinyarwanda and perhaps Kiswahili, and until 2008 were teaching in French. At that time Rwanda changed to instruction in English, so a great many teachers are now teaching in their _fourth_ language. In recent years the proportion of age-eligible students actually enrolled has been advanced to near universal service. Now the importance of improving the quality of education is high. Barks-Ruggles framed the issue in this way: there is a five year window of opportunity to achieve quality instruction or a generation of Rwandans will not be economically competitive.
As impressed as I was with her prepared comments, her answers to questions showed additional strengths. She was on point, detailed, and concrete. Asked what surprised her most here, she said that it’s not possible to be alone here, the population density produces the effect that wherever you are, driving or walking, you will be in sight of others at all times. She said that while out taking morning exercise she probably greets about 400 people a day. Asked what evidence there is of positive effects from Peace Corps volunteers’ efforts here she cited the libraries established and enhanced and increases in students and citizens’ computer literacy. She also sensitively assisted in helping a volunteer reframe a concern in a way that respected both the volunteer’s priorities and challenges of change processes.
Dr. Balinda Ruteruka provided me important information about the work at ICE in Ruhango and I am very grateful to have joined that institution this morning.
(That was Thursday, April 28. In the next week I should be moving from Kigali to my site.)