Message from the Vice Chancellor
This message is primarily directed to our continuing RP students who will be coming back to school in September but also to the prospective new students who will be joining us for their Year 1 later in the year. The college campuses you will be coming (back) to will be operating vastly differently from before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining, there is indeed some good coming out of the current situation which has highlighted the importance and necessity to invest even more in blended learning and, more particularly for TVET’s hands-on learning process, to focus on using interactive learning platforms, like simulations for practical work.
Many of our academic staff have utilized this long period since the closure of schools in mid-March to digitalize the curriculum content. They are busy making the learning material user-friendly and interactive so that students can be in control of their learning. Our wish is to make the learning experience fun yet provocative and challenging in order to solve problems and create solutions, instead of memorizing to pass exams. In this endeavour we are looking to engage with like-minded partners here in Rwanda, regionally and internationally. We shall be reaching out to such institutions like Carnegie Mellon University, and the UR Centers of Excellence, to tap into their expertize to enrich our e-Learning resources and to enhance the capacity of our teaching staff.
We are mindful of the fact that the TVET skills training we need to craft for transforming Rwanda to a knowledge-based economy must develop a two-pronged approach with two streams of training - one concentrating on vocational trades, where more time is spent at the workplace and less time in the academic campus (classroom), and the other stream which focuses on refining the practical skills of the future from an academic standpoint including building, programming and developing technologies of the 4th Industrial revolution. For the vocational trades training we are very focused on partnering with the private sector to transform the TVET skills training into a dual learning process – 50-60% being workplace or industrial learning and 40-50% of the time spent at the academic campuses. This will necessarily be a work-in-progress as our private sector gradually grows and expands. For the ‘technical or academic stream’ we would be focusing on developing the conducive ict-driven environment which nurtures creativity, design and innovation. This will require highly specialized laboratories and workshops not forgetting incubation-center space. This discussion is going to be not necessarily top-down driven – we want our youngsters, our young faculty and students, to be the source of ideas of how to develop the model of two streams of training in future.
When the schools reopen in September (fingers crossed), the students shall have to adapt very quickly to a new normal. There will be requirements for social distancing, frequent hand-washing, wearing the face mask and frequent testing exercises, e.g. temperature monitoring. As I mentioned earlier, the mode of teaching/learning is going to be decidedly student-centered, meaning that students will be in charge of their own learning process through an interactive e-learning platform. A lot of responsibility, therefore, is going to be placed on the student for their health and well-being as well as for their education. There must be a heightened sense of community, a recognition that a careless act by one could lead to an outbreak of the disease. There will be need for patience and understanding, as we shall learn the ropes (so-to-speak) together as we go, because this is new territory for most of us.
For me, I must say that I am excited about the new frontiers being opened or brought forward by the pandemic, because we have always known that we must shift to blended learning, to ict-driven teaching/learning environment, but somehow the urgency had not seemed as critical as now. So, welcome to a brave new world; let us tighten our belts and go for it, together!
Looking forward to welcoming you (back) to RP; my wish is to personally visit each college and look you in the face and tell you, “Welcome” – promise!