By Rwandan journalist Charles Ndushabandi, first published in Umusare News.
China's Funding of Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centre (IPRC) Musanze located in Rwanda's Northern province has significantly enhanced the development of the school, quality of education, availed work force and created business opportunities for the local communities around the campus.
Since the construction of IPRC Musanze with funding from the Chinese government in 2014, more funding has been made available by China over time, including a US$16 million grant that was given in 2018. A portion of this grant was used to expand the campus by adding the necessary infrastructure and purchasing the equipment needed for practical training.
In 2021, the newly refurbished college now covering 71,000 square meters with a building area of 16,300 square meters that included administration office building, multi-functional hall, comprehensive classroom building, training workshop and other facilities, with capacity to enroll more than 2,000 students was handed over to the government under the China-aided Extension Project.
Principal of IPRC Musanze, Eng. Emile Abayisenga sang songs of praise to the Chinese government for providing enormous support in the construction of the school and for the construction of 200 water boreholes.
“With this support, we have been able to triple the number of students, both those who are undertaking diploma and short courses,” says Biyisenga.
“The grant also helped to extend what already existing infrastructure, but also the necessary equipment required for practical training," he adds.
Claudette Irere, Minister of State for Education says the campus having been greatly improved has become a key factor to the cultivation of professional talents.
“This institute is helping in the enhancement of the independent innovation capabilities of Rwanda, and the achievement of the goals set by Rwanda's Vision 2050 and National Strategy for Transformation," says Irere.
According to Chenguang Sun, secretary of political affairs to the Chinese Ambassador, the Technical and Vocational Education has been vital in trajectory of China’s development.
"In a hundred-year strategy of a nation, education is the most important base and is the top priority of a country's development. Both China and Rwanda attach great importance to education and youth development, especially in the field of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET),” Sun says.
Sun furthermore added that, the support provided to the college bears witness to the traditional friendship, and is another milestone of mutual benefit and win-win cooperation between China and Rwanda.
“The campus will provide a better platform for more and more Rwandan professional talents to grow, and will also play a positive role in accelerating the development of TVET in Rwanda, improving employability and labor income of youth, and the speed-up of economic transformation and upgrading” he says.
The college offers five advanced diploma and diploma programs in civil engineering, electrical and electronics engineering, hospitality management, agricultural engineering, and information and communications technology (ICT).
The college's mission is to provide quality education that complies with applicable standards through vocational education that enables beneficiaries to acquire skills required to create jobs and compete in the labor market and offers brief training in residential electrical installation, culinary arts, and carpentry.
Former student Bright Turayisenga, who graduated from the institution in 2021 with a degree in hospitality management and is presently employed as a waiter at one of the four-star hotels in Kigali, claims that the funding from the Chinese government improved the quality of teaching.
“While we were there the quality of education instantly increased when the funding started coming through, the college got better facilities, equipment’s for practical, this really helped us improve ad acquire better skills and it’s the reason we can work in these hotels,” says Turayisenge.
He says improvement in the quality of education can easily be observed throughout the difference between workers in the hospitality industry mostly among those that studied in Rwanda.
“Improvement in skills can easily be observed within the industry for example those who graduated before have had to be trained again by those who employ them unlike us who just go through initiation and that all this can be attributed to the support given by China,” he adds.
The country now has the personnel it desperately needs in the construction, hospitality, and tourism industries, which are the main engines of the national economy.
Ephraim Kamanzi, a hotelier in Rwanda’s capital Kigali says the increase in better skilled workers who are trained in Rwanda makes the hospitality more profitable hence bringing more investment.
“Being able to get skilled labor from within the country is cheap compared to getting workers from Kenya or other countries. This derails the industry from growing as it incurs high salaries but with the campuses being able to provide us high workers the cost of operations will be lower hence growth,” says Kamazi.
Moses Ngarambe, who studied agriculture at the college majoring in irrigation and water engineering says he managed to find solutions for water shortage during the dry season.
"Agriculture is the back bone of Rwanda, however we face very many challenges including drought but with the skills acquired at the college we have managed to over cove some these challenges including designing and building dams on top of teaching people on how better irrigation methods,” Ngarambe says.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, agriculture employs 70% of the people and contributes 33% of Rwanda's GDP.
Additionally, the growth in the student population has created business opportunities for locals in neighboring communities, who now have access to jobs at the college's more than 150 staff and training in a variety of fields like agriculture. The most vulnerable residents of the neighboring communities also gain access to houses built by students from the college.
The governments of China and Rwanda signed an implementation agreement on the expansion project of the college. China have funded the expansion project and provide necessary equipment to IPRC Musanze.
The cooperation between China's Jinhua Polytechnic and IPRC Musanze also injects new energy into skills training in Rwanda.
Jinhua Polytechnic in Zhejiang Province, eastern China, and IPRC Musanze jointly launched Jinhua Polytechnic's oversea campus in IPRC Musanze in July 2017, which includes a technical skills development center and a Chinese language learning center.
Two management staff from Jinhua Polytechnic has been working in IPRC Musanze since April 2018. They completed research of labor marketing conditions in the region in order to making a cooperation plan in line with conditions of Rwanda and the college.