How Afretec program is improving the quality of Engineering, Technology Education at the University of Rwanda


The rapid change in technologies around the world often makes it hard for academic institution curricula to keep up with the pace. Yet, Technology and Engineering education plays a paramount role in tackling socio-economic challenges. There is a need for good quality of such education locally and globally to address societal challenges.

It is in that perspective, Mastercard Foundation through Carnegie Mellon University-Africa supported six universities in Africa to establish the African Engineering and Technology Network (Afretec), a pan-African collaboration of universities aimed at building capacity, advancing digital transformation through fostering research and providing courses that students and other graduates may not have acquired while at school.

The six universities include the University of Rwanda (UR), the American University of Cairo, Wits University from South Africa, Carnegie Mellon Africa, the University of Lagos, and the University of Nairobi.

The network focuses on producing locally and globally competitive tech talent ; multi-institution collaborations for knowledge creation ; relevant innovations ; and fostering a tech startup culture and ecosystem across Africa.

Afretec program at the University of Rwanda benefits students, UR alumni, graduates including from other universities, and other stakeholders in the public and private sector, and the general public by offering short courses in fields like artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, cybersecurity, embedded systems, and a number of bridge courses in different subjects. The same program also provides training for upskilling academic staff at the University.

In the context of above, a one-day academia-industry workshop with industry partners and different companies whose operations are in line with the AFRETEC and CST’s objectives to discuss more collaboration mechanisms for the benefit of both parties has been organized.

The workshop took place at the University of Rwanda, College of Science and Technology on 13th September 2023 gathering Afretec implementation team, Academic staff and private industry partners, afretec beneficiaries and discussed how the quality of education can be improved through the Afretec project in collaboration with industry.

"Due to limited time, there are things that students don’t get to learn properly in the ordinary curriculum at school, yet they are important on the market and it may take some time to update the curriculum. In addition, students may not be at the same level of understanding things and obtaining skills. We provide bridge courses and additional training through a certification development program under the Afretec project" Pierre Bakunzibake, the Project Implementation Lead, and Head of the Electrical and Electronics Engineering Department at the University, told the media.
The Afretec network also aims at building a strong knowledge creation and educational infrastructure on the continent, in addition to providing a platform for its members to engage in deep collaboration that drives inclusive digital growth in Africa.

At UR, the program aims to reach out not only to undergraduate students but also their postgraduate and PhD counterparts, as well as lecturers, and stakeholders including staff in the private and public sectors.
"We focus on short courses, and knowledge creation. We also organise workshops which can bring together people from academia and industrial stakeholders to work together," Bakunzibake said.

Marie Josee Mubamana, a teacher of computer science in Nyagatare district, and UR alumini, one of the beneficiaries of the Afretec courses, says she learnt a couple of things she had not learnt at university.

“Through Afretec, I was given training in two courses – networking and cybersecurity. At university, we had only studied networking, not cybersecurity. It was the first time I studied cybersecurity,” she said.
For Habib Ndayishimiye, a second year computer science student at UR, Afretec provided an opportunity to learn about the applicability of what he studied theoretically.

Through the program, he has studied more about the practicability of C++, a cross-platform language that can be used to create high-performance applications.
“Though we already had a C++ teacher, it was great to have more lectures about it. The (Afretec) teacher gave us more knowledge regarding how C++ can be used and what we can do with it," he noted.
Bakunzibake called upon the tech industry to support the program by providing their expertise in the conduction of training sessions, as well as recognizing the certificates that trainees get through Afretec.

So far, according to Bakunzibake, Afretec’s bridge program which focuses on first-year students has trained 484 people, while the certification program which focuses on final year students, UR Alumni, graduates, and postgraduate students, industry professionals, and public servants has trained 180 people. Those programs are still on going and more people are expected to be trained in different bridge, certification and faculty enrichment programs

Event photos