Kepler CEO lectures on Rwandan higher education

Ashley Tsao

Higher education in Rwanda needs to bridge both a quality gap and an accessibility gap in order for students to become successful, according to Kepler CEO Christopher Hedrick.

Hedrick spoke at an event Monday hosted by the Ronya George Kozmetsky Center for Philanthropy and Community Service in the LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Students of Kepler, a nonprofit university program in Rwanda, are enrolled in a degree program from Southern New Hampshire University called College for America and are able to graduate with U.S. accredited degrees in communications and healthcare management, Hedrick said. The tuition is $1,000 per year, similar to that of a Rwandan public university.

“Human potential is not being utilized,” Hedrick said. “Kepler helps to reduce the gap between how much potential young people have and how much they get to fulfill it.”

The value of higher education lies in economic opportunity, Danielle Rutherford, public affairs graduate student, said.

“Higher education is the ticket to economic prosperity not only in Rwanda, but across the globe,” Rutherford said.

Kepler was developed because many Rwandan universities were poorly run with overcrowded lecture halls and facilitated little interaction with potential employers, Hedrick said. At Kepler, students are able to obtain a degree, gain technology skills and are connected to potential job opportunities, according to Hedrick.

Kepler uses a competency-based program, forcing students to demonstrate a mastery of a subject before they can advance, Hedrick said.

“Up until the time they were in Kepler, these students were rewarded on how well they could memorize and regurgitate information,” Hedrick said. “Kepler creates critical reasoning capabilities.”

A main benefit of this program is that students are able to learn English, social work graduate student Sara Acebedo said. Because many graduates leave Rwanda to take an international job, English is taught to expand the breath of graduates’ qualifications.

“The presentation talked about how Kepler created economic and work study opportunities, but more importantly, Kepler students learn in a Western-style classroom and learn how to navigate two different types of work cultures,” Acebedo said.

According to Hedrick, only 7 percent of students in Africa have any sort of access to higher education.

“Conversely, six out of ten of the fastest growing economies in the world during the past few years were found in Africa,” Hedrick said. “Economic growth in Africa would be even faster if it wasn’t constrained by the 7 percent.”