Rwandan workforce: The culture and double standards of internships in Rwanda.

“It is a privilege to study in the U.S.” I have said this before but maybe I should put more emphasis saying that we are socialized to believe that education in the U.S. is the best education one can acquire. Ministers, deputies, ambassadors and other important people in our country have in some way studied in Western countries (especially the U.S.). Therefore, you are ALMOST guaranteed a job after your studies are done. A guarantee if you return to Rwanda, or so they tell us!

When you are looking for a job in Rwanda, like other countries, you are asked about your experience in the field you are going into. The same experience that we hope to get when we start internships. The most interesting thing is that in Rwanda, there is hardly any culture of internships. You are expected to just miraculously be experienced. Where is the experience supposed to come from if those that should be training you are not doing so? This is very common in Rwanda. Standards and expectations (that can only be met by the help of older folks) are set for younger people and when they fail due to the lack of competency of the older ones, the blame goes to the young ones. I mean there is a debate on why there is cultural deterioration among the young people. For some interesting reason older people feel that it is the fault of the youths even though they know so well, culture is passed down, taught and learned.

I am an Economics major studying the U.S. economy and planning to go back to Rwanda when I am done. Just because I studied in the U.S. does not mean I am an expert in economies. I can do as many internships in the U.S. as I can get and still fail to be efficient in Rwanda. Not because I am incompetent but because of the obvious fact that these are two differently operating economies. Not to mention the hundreds of unethical economic practices I may carry from the U.S. into the Rwandan economy because there is a lot of ethical issues with Economics. Rwanda is a socialist economy (if you did not know, read the EDPRS presentations) and the U.S. is highly capitalist (if you did not know, it is obvious but you can also take just one banking or economics class). I was just reading the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy II (EDPRS) and I realized how Rwanda and the U.S. are on two different paths when it comes to economic development. Therefore, while yes, it is great to study in the U.S., as someone that desires to directly be involved with the development of my country, I need to learn about my economy and how it operates.

However, not only is there no culture of internship, there is also hardly any respect for them. I had a conversation with someone at the place I am currently interning and I was shocked with what I learned. In places that do provide internships, it does not mean anything. In other countries, an internship helps you gain experience. In Rwanda because internships do not yield much, you do not leave with anything. Even when you do have the sponge- magnet mentality (this is someone who absorbs information and asks many questions in order to learn more- courtesy of a friend), you still fall under the assumption that you hardly learned anything. When you return to Rwanda with a Masters degree and experience from only internships, you start from the bottom as someone that has no experience. Someone with a bachelor’s degree that worked will have more experience and knowledge (I don’t know if I agree with this analogy). If you have any hopes of getting a job right after school as a domestic student, you can secure that by being both a fulltime worker and a fulltime student or take a year off and be part of the work force. All these options are tedious and make it difficult for many students to finish thus increasing the dropout rates (look through MINEDUC numbers) and others to push towards jobs that are not of the ability.

These are some of the questions the diaspora ask themselves when deciding whether they should or should not go back home. I always thought people just did not want to go back home because, well, no one wanted to live in a “third world” country. While this may be true for some cases, there are also students that would love to go back home but are not “supported” with this decision. I met a presidential scholar that came back from the U.S. but could not find a job in Rwanda. A presidential scholar! Really bright, 4.0 GPA undergraduate and masters, came back and could not find where to place his talents and went back to the U.S. Now, he is an engineer in one of the biggest companies in the U.S. If a presidential scholar can have such an issue, what makes you think any other scholar can make it out here? 

Lastly, coming back to Rwanda from the U.S. is a double edge sword (or should we call say it has double standards). You are expected and advised to come back to Rwanda when you are done (I mean apparently they need you and you need to give back to your community) but when you come back, there is an assumption that you were not intelligent enough to find a job in the U.S. I rest my case because I am so confused on what to do.

Rwanda encourages more of job creation than job seeking. As a developing country (actually for any type of country) this is great for the economy. In the EDPRS II, the goal is for the government to help create 200,000 new jobs annually. However, we are not only aiming to create jobs but successful and long lasting ones. In order to create businesses that will succeed, we need to understand the business system (or economy) of Rwanda. We need to learn how successful businesses operate, what type of businesses succeed, what type we need to better the economy and to what to do to ensure our businesses succeeds. Many times when we think of internship, we think of working but interning can also be the process of finding mentorship and being mentored. Therefore, whether or not Rwanda seeks to improve job creation or job seeking, we can all agree that the end goal is definitely to decrease unemployment.

I am not making excuses for the young folks that may want nothing to do with their country (cause every country has them). I am merely saying that there is no culture that supports the coming back of the diaspora and even worse a culture that helps domestic students to gain experiences while studying (without being BOTH a fulltime worker and a fulltime student). In lacking this, we take Agaciro away from our culture and reproduce the inferiority of our people because we are constantly asking them to prove themselves on a “foreign-scale”.

"We are not only aiming to create jobs but successful and long lasting ones. In order to create businesses that will succeed, we need to understand the business system (or economy) of Rwanda. We need to learn how successful businesses operate, what type of businesses succeed, what type we need to better the economy and to what to do to ensure our businesses succeeds."
“We are not only aiming to create jobs but successful and long lasting ones. In order to create businesses that will succeed, we need to understand the business system (or economy) of Rwanda. We need to learn how successful businesses operate, what type of businesses succeed, what type we need to better the economy and to what to do to ensure our businesses succeeds.”
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2 Replies to “Rwandan workforce: The culture and double standards of internships in Rwanda.”

    1. Hello Vanessa. Thank you for reading and your comment. I know!! This is the million dollar question. It crosses lots of people’s minds. I would say, from both options, choose the one where you will be able to do the most with your talents and abilities- while simultaneously helping the country grow. Choose the option that you feel satisfies you, your passion and where you will also continuously be learning and challenging yourself. Either way, be ready for greatness. More power to you!

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