blog posts from GYC's participants, alumni, & staff
by Lambert Mugabo
Education challenges among Historically Marginalized People (Potters) in Rwanda. A case of Mubuga sector, District of Karongi, Western Province, Rwanda.
This post has been published in a more recent version at youthpolicy.org
In a country like Rwanda where natural resources are very limited, arable lands are few, and still a big share of the population particularly in rural areas is occupied with subsistence agriculture, the hope for future or the realization of one’s dream is highly dependent on adequate education.
Education in Rwanda is one of the sectors that the government has put a priority on as it is recognized to be the key for the pursuit development. However, despite the efforts of the government of Rwanda to advance education — including the recent extension of basic education from 9 years to 12 years, as well as the increased promotion of science, information and technology — there are still plenty challenges to overcome. This is especially true in rural areas such as the Mubuga sector, Karongi district, where a delegation of human rights activists from Rwanda, the United States of America, as well as Canada visited on August 8, 2012 during a Human Rights Learning and Action Program for Young Leaders Organized by Global Youth Connect (GYC) in partnership with INARA Legal Services (INALAS).
While all interested kids in the community were invited to come together to discuss education, the target group was children who come from the Potter community (also known as Historically Marginalized People) in the Mubuga sector. We focused on this community for specific reasons: 1) this community as other communities of potters scattered through the country has been left behind as far as development is concerned and still they are not fully integrated in Rwandan society, and 2) if they are to have better economic and social prospects, there are patterns in their behavior and attitudes that need to be addressed.
The literature shows that these people have had a forest-based life believing that the forest was the source of all their needs. During 1970s when legislation was passed outlawing hunting, they were driven out of the forest without compensation and alternative means of earning livelihoods. Consequently, some of them became beggars, landless labourers, but specifically most of them shifted to pottery as the main source of income regardless of its small returns.
During the session held with the children of Mubuga which focused on education in particular, they mentioned various challenges that prevent them from succeeding in their studies: hunger, lack of materials as well as inability to pay of school fees were mentioned among the top challenges that make many kids drop out or not even go to school at all.
On the other hand, there are other crucial mental issues that were observed which hinder the advancement of education especially in communities of Historically Marginalized People whose history is tied to forest life. Those issues include delinquency whereby young kids instead of going to school look for jobs that provide them with a small income, careless parents who are not concerned at all about education of their sons and daughters, and lack of family support particularly for orphans. Furthermore, upon the session held with the kids, it was observed that there is critical issue concerning their motivation; many kids are not motivated enough to go to school.
When kids were asked about various activities that human beings do, their answers reflected on what they see in their community. Most kids referred to activities such as cultivating, cutting trees, fetching water, constructing, cooking, washing, playing, etc. and though few would hardly mention that human beings go to school, there is lack of connection between the education and one’s dream; there would mention going to school as anything else like cutting trees or cultivating.
Education needs of the potters’ communities
Following the visit and the workshop with kids, delegates had their hearts touched, therefore committed themselves to take actions toward the improvement of the situation, whereby in collaboration with Communauté des Pottiers Rwandais (COPORWA), a local organization advocating for Potters in Rwanda, Vanessa Colomba and Lambert Mugabo, and many others have come up with ideas to address some challenges stated above and we shall welcome any contribution to improving living conditions of potters.