Thursday, 26 February 2009

Pupil power, Rwanda style

Here is another litle article from today's "New Times". Nyanza is the District between me and Butare, where Ken is doing my District Education Officer role. There but for fortune could be Claude and I!

Students boycott classes, want director to resign

NYANZA – A group of students at Ecole Technique de Gitarama (ETO-Gitarama) on Monday boycotted classes and declared a hunger strike to protest against what they termed was a lack of teachers.

The group mostly composed of senior four and five students attempted to march to the Nyanza district offices to demand the local leaders’ intervention before being intercepted by district officials- who asked them to return to school and were instead asked to wait for a special meeting.

Speaking to The New Times, scores of the seemingly angry students complained that they have not been learning for months because of shortage of teachers. The striking students blamed the district education office for not intervening.

“We are not on a strike, we are aware that strikes portray a poor image of the school. However, we have opted to boycott classes until the provincial authorities addresses the issues at hand because they have neglected our problems for long,” a student who asked not to be named said.

Following the strike, an abrupt six hour meeting aimed at calming students was held between the students, the school administration and district officials, at the school premises. However, most of the students were unruly demanding that the acting director, Ezekiel Ngoboka be replaced immediately.

Ngoboka explained that some teachers have unexpectedly abandoned teaching largely due to personal reasons while others got better jobs, but the administration has employed other qualified teachers. He castigated the students for undermining the school’s efforts to employ new English speaking teachers.

Eduard Mushimiyimana, the district education officer, dismissed the students’ claims, saying most of the issues which were being raised were resolved in 2008. Calling for calm among students, Mushimiyimana cautioned them against strikes and promised to recruit more teachers.

On the replacement of the director, Mushimiyimana said the appointment of a new director was in the pipeline but called on students to cooperate with school authorities.

Meanwhile, the officials pointed out that the students’ demand for the resignation of the school director could have been instigated by people with vested interests, and they promised to launch an investigation into the matter.

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