It has been several weeks since my last post – a packed, eventful period with many ‘firsts’ in the life of the Rwanda Institute for Conservation Agriculture (RICA). In mid-August, we realized there was a decent chance that not all facilities needed for instruction during Term 1 of the first year would be ready in time to begin classes in September. This readiness included assessment for accreditation by the Higher Education Council (HEC) of the Ministry of Education of Rwanda. Consequently, RICA explored options for a temporary facility to house and instruct the first cohort of students. The Higher Education Council visited our proposed site, the La Palisse Hotel in Nyamata (between Kigali and the RICA campus) on Sept. 3, 2019. On Sept. 4, 2019, the Ministry of Education granted RICA permission to begin operations, and submitted the proposal for accreditation to the Cabinet.
Friday, September 13, was the first All-Hands Meeting for RICA faculty and staff – a review of RICA’s progress the past few months, a look forward to the first term, and in-service training sessions to familiarize staff on various software platforms and other resources RICA will use to run the Institute.
Saturday, September 14, was the first Matriculation Ceremony for RICA. Students and their families were transported to the La Palisse Hotel in Nyamata from bus stations in Kigali. The Matriculation Ceremony was a formal induction of the first cohort of RICA students. Students families were bused back to Kigali that evening, and students spent their first night on campus.
Monday, September 16 began the first week of classes for RICA. The first class was ‘Practical Mathematics for Agriculture’. The week included three days in which students were bused to the RICA campus for their Practical Farming class field work, spending three hours each day in the field. The proximity of Nyamata to the RICA campus makes this practical, and this will be the weekly pattern until students move onto campus later this year. The week ended with a visit by the Minister of Agriculture to the RICA campus on Friday, September 20, to observe students working in the field, and speaking to a convocation of the students and staff that afternoon in Nyamata.