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Rwanda moves to expel 100 Ugandan teachers over work permit

Rwanda appears to have executed a well-calculated horse kick that will be more felt by Ugandans not because of the large numbers of those facing deportation but their attachment to the common compared to Annie Tabura whose interest was just boardroom.

KIGALI | Authorities in Rwanda have given Ugandan teachers seven days to process work permit or be driven across the border and seen out for good.

Some 108 Ugandans teaching in different schools in Rwanda’s eastern district of Nyagatare have been found without work or resident permits and given one week to process them or face legal action.

“We have given them one week to process the documents. We will do a follow up in collaboration with security organs to see if they heed to our directions,” Juliet Murekatete, the district deputy mayor for social welfare, is quoted by KT Press, a news wire based in Kigali, as saying.

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But the fate of most of the affected teachers appear sealed because authorities are understood to not only be pursuing them for work and residence permits, but also academic papers.

In 2017, Rwanda rolled out a new skills-based education curriculum across all levels of learning, with most teachers having to train in how to conduct classes in the new teaching method.

However, while many Rwandan teachers were in the same pot of skills set as their Ugandan counterparts, the authorities have decreed that most Ugandan teachers no longer meet Rwandan academic requirements.

KT Press quoted education officials in the Nyagatare — which borders Uganda — as saying that there are 188 Ugandan teachers living and working in the district, the majority of them in private schools.

The development comes amid deteriorating relations between the two countries that has seen Ugandan government arrest and deport four top executives of MTN Uganda, including Rwandan Annie Tabura, over allegations of spying for the south-western neighbours.

It is not yet clear if Rwanda’s decision is related to the frosty relations but, if anything, Nyagatare’s situate at the border with Uganda probably means it accommodate the largest number of Ugandan teachers.

“They say permits but it appears more like a well-calculated decision with far-reaching consequences. When you looked at the Rwandan woman deported [Tabura], she was a ‘big fish’ that got top Kigali officials tweeting and talking, but the Ugandan victims are ‘small fish’ who carry a lot of weight among the Omuntu wa wansi (the common man),” said a Ugandan working in Kigali on condition of anonymity since the current diplomatic spats are sensitive.

The development also leaves Ugandans in other parts of the central African country, especially the capital Kigali, wary that the Nyagatare decision could be a precursor to others yet to come.

Rwanda opened its school staff rooms to Ugandan teachers when it made a shift from the French-leaning education system to English course and official language. The decision, more than 15 years ago, was occasioned by the fact that most Rwandan teachers of the time could not conduct lessons in English and lacked standard teaching qualification.

However, many Rwandan teachers have since passed through the training phase and graduated with proficiency in English, leaving only ‘old timers’ grappling with the language issue.

Rwanda’s Directorate General of Immigration and Emigration requires a foreigner who has a contract of employment of a period of more than 90 to apply for a work permit within 15 days of arrival in the country.

The penalties for defaulting depends on several factors, including one’s salary scale, length of lapse in time before they seek to process the permits, among others. On average, a defaulter would be fined Rwf130,000 (about Shs520,000), with the maximum being Rwf500,000 (about Shs2 million).

In some instances, foreign nationals who have stayed longer than six months without permits have not been a chance but instead deported, especially if their nature of employ is not formal.

Uganda and Rwanda’s diplomatic cold war leaves the East African Community increasingly looking like two large ears of white elephants flapping to wade off insects. The EAC Common Market Protocol provides for free movement of goods and services but the current standoff means it only exists within the white elephant.

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