China and Rwanda Strengthen Collaboration To Improve Vocational Skills

A Luban Workshop is launched at IPRC Musanze, Rwanda, on 18 November 2023. Photo: Chinese Embassy in Rwanda.

In a significant stride towards fostering international collaboration in education, China has reaffirmed its commitment to supporting Rwanda’s technical and vocational education and training (TVET) sector. The partnership, marked by the signing of two letters of intent between Rwanda Polytechnic and prominent Chinese institutions, underscores the mutual dedication to enhancing skills development and fostering economic growth. 

The agreements were reached during a visit by a high-level delegation from the Chinese TVET sector to Rwanda in October, where they engaged in fruitful discussions with their Rwandan counterparts. The collaboration is part of the China-Africa Vocational Education Alliance (CAVEA), an initiative spearheaded by the Chinese government to facilitate international partnerships in educational development between African and Chinese institutions. The goal is to move beyond individual-institution collaborations and establish mechanisms at the national level, ensuring a broader impact across the TVET sector. 

The collaboration is aimed at strengthening ties in various fields including irrigation, agriculture, manufacturing and ICT, and will benefit Integrated Polytechnic Regional Colleges (IPRCs) including IPRC Kigali, IPRC Tumba, IPRC Gishari and IPRC Ngoma.

Members of a CAVEA delegation pose for a group photo during a visit to Rwanda Polytechnic in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, on 27 October 2023. Rwanda Polytechnic.

Benefits for industrialisation  

Sun Shanxue, vice chairman of the Chinese Society of Technical Vocational Education, emphasised the importance of TVET in achieving Africa’s industrialisation. He expressed China’s readiness to collaborate with African nations on a national scale, marking a departure from previous institution-centric collaborations. 

Claudette Irere, minister of state for education in Rwanda, welcomed the Chinese delegation and expressed gratitude for China’s interest in supporting Rwanda’s TVET sector. She highlighted the significance of digitalisation in TVET, expressing interest in learning from China’s experience in this domain. 

“The fact that you can even measure digitalisation is something we want to learn,” Irere noted during the meeting. 

Ye Zhouxuan, economic and commercial counsellor at the Chinese embassy in Rwanda, echoed the sentiment, emphasising the shared belief in the crucial role of education in a nation’s development. He cited President Paul Kagame’s recognition of education as the key to Rwanda’s future, underscoring the importance both nations place on educational cooperation. 

Ye emphasised that as Rwanda undergoes rapid economic growth, skilled workers will play an even more crucial role, particularly in the context of the country’s digital transformation. He acknowledged past collaborations, such as the China-aided extension project of IPRC Musanze and the establishment of a Luban Workshop by Zhejiang Jinhua Vocational and Technical College in IPRC Musanze. 

Sylvie Mucyo, vice chancellor of Rwanda Polytechnic, thanked China for supporting IPRC Musanze with infrastructure, modern workshops, and laboratory equipment. She characterised the collaboration with CAVEA and Chinese higher-learning vocational education institutions as a long-term partnership aimed at enhancing the academic landscape in Rwanda and beyond. 

“The collaboration with CAVEA and Chinese higher learning vocational education institutions is not merely a one-time venture; we believe it is a start towards a long-term partnership that will encompass other educational programmes and activities to further and enhance the academic landscape in Rwanda and beyond,” Mucyo stated. 

The Chinese government’s support for Rwanda’s education is not limited to TVET. In October of the same year, the Chinese embassy in Rwanda celebrated a decade of providing scholarships to support well-performing students from underprivileged backgrounds through the Imbuto Foundation’s Edified Generation Programme. 

The Edified Generation Scholarship, initiated in 2002, has played a crucial role in supporting secondary students from disadvantaged families. The programme provides an annual stipend of up to $400, covering living expenses, health insurance and school supplies. Additionally, the programme includes a yearly holiday camp focused on imparting life skills and offering career and professional advice to participating students. 

Lin Hang, deputy head of mission at the Chinese embassy in Rwanda, highlighted the impact of the scholarship programme on Rwandan students. The partnership between the Chinese embassy and the Imbuto Foundation, which began in 2013, has supported 531 students, with 386 successfully graduating and 145 currently receiving support.

A China-Rwanda joint laboratory for training in automation technology at IPRC Musanze, Rwanda. Photo: Rwanda Polytechnic.

Transformative impact 

During a visit to Nyamata TVET School in Bugesera District, the Chinese delegation applauded the long-standing partnership and celebrated the transformative impact of the scholarship programme on Rwandan students. The visit showcased the success stories of beneficiaries like Theophile Uwiragiye, an alumnus who now works as a teacher at a TVET school in Nyagatare. 

Uwiragiye shared how the scholarship enabled him to complete his education and become a source of hope for others by paying tuition fees for another deserving student. Eric Mugabo, another beneficiary who now works as a doctor at Bugesera District Hospital, credited the programme for shaping his career and instilling in him a sense of responsibility to serve the community. 

Lin affirmed China’s commitment to supporting education through the Edified Generation Scholarship, encouraging students to dream big and assuring them of continued support whenever possible. 

In response, Jackson Vugayabagabo, director general of the Imbuto Foundation, reiterated the foundation’s dedication to nurturing young people for holistic development. He emphasised the foundation’s commitment to supporting well-performing students from underprivileged backgrounds, paying for their living cost in boarding schools, and enriching their experience through annual holiday camps.

As China strengthens its collaboration with Rwanda in both TVET and the broader education sector, the future looks promising for Rwandan students aspiring to excel in various fields. The sustained commitment of the Chinese government reflects a shared vision of empowering young minds and fostering the development of Rwanda’s human capital, ultimately contributing to the nation’s continued growth and prosperity. People at several vocational education institutes in Rwanda including IPRC Musanze said Chinese companies have provided them means for a decent life as well as opportunities to pursue their dreams.

African Times has published this article in partnership with ChinAfrica Magazine



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