Article by: Times Reporter
The practical approach adopted by Mount Kenya University Rwanda (MKUR) where hospitality students are exposed to various field trips has seen the institutions recognised as one of the best in the country. This is one of the main reasons graduates from this programme are highly sought after both locally and globally.
Under the initiative, students are exposed to various field trips to provide them with real-world, hands-on, engaging experiences to enable them gain a better understanding of the subject and the outside world.
In a message sent to the media houses, Prof Edwin Odhuno, the Vice-Chancellor designate, said MKUR will live up to its promise of equipping trained manpower in the hospitality and tourism industry.
“Rwanda has chosen hospitality and tourism as one of its main economic drivers for poverty reduction and economic development. While the industry is succeeding, the country is diversifying and avoiding overreliance on international visitors.
It has put a focus on domestic tourism, which helps fight poverty, generate employment and address seasonality within regions dispersing tourists to less visited areas.
Travel by local tourists is often overlooked by members of the hospitality and tourism industry and considered a luxury by many locals. It’s therefore important to change people’s minds and attitudes in constructive ways, such as practical education.
Our hospitality and tourism centre of excellence helps students enjoy avenues to apply theoretical knowledge to practice. Knowledge acquired by students is later passed on to the industry and the local people to understand the value of hospitality and tourism. The upcoming Kigali Paramount Hotel will also play a significant part in enhancing hands-on experience for students,” said Prof Odhuno.
Mr. Benson Abuto, a senior lecturer in the school of hospitality and tourism urged that it is time for the Rwandan citizens to embrace the diverse tourism products in Rwanda by participating in domestic tourism, that can create employment opportunities and improve their standard of living. “The destinations visited offer breath taking sceneries at affordable costs,” he said.
Recently, third- and fourth-year semester students led by the Associate Dean of Hospitality, Travel and Tourism Management, Paul Okumu went for a three-day academic trip to Nyungwe, southern province to enable them develop a better understanding and appreciate Rwanda’s unique touristic attractions.
The field trip started from the campus in Kicukiro via Huye to the camping site at the IPRC, Kitabi, where they explored the touristic attractions found within this picturesque tourism circuit. They enjoyed a guided tour through tea farms where they learned about the origin of one of Rwanda’s favourite beverages and major export earner.
They saw how tea leaves are handpicked with skill and dexterity which leads to retaining the freshness of the beverage, thus ensuring a great taste. Some students practised tea picking and got to know which part of the plants’ leaves to pick. They appreciated the joy, expertise and experience of the local people in harvesting tea.
Another incredible experience for students was a trek to Kamiranzovu waterfall in Nyungwe Forest National Park which is a ‘must-see’ for all visitors to the park. It offers an excellent opportunity for flora and fauna lovers to enjoy.
They also learned about the bird richness along with the bird-watching activities so as to put forward the ornithon-tourism potential of Nyungwe Forest National Park. The students were able to evaluate and appreciate the usefulness of waterfalls to the environment and society.
The MKUR students were welcomed by an official of the park, Odette Uwamahirwe, who wished the students success in their endeavours.
”As students, you will discover that Nyungwe Park is home to an enormous abundance of birds nesting here each year, unique plant species and wildlife that is key in your field trip studies and research,” she said.
During the trip, students experienced that getting to the Kamiranzovu waterfall is a tough task. It required courage, patience, physical fitness and determination. All the time, the students struggled with anxiety.
The waterfall being in a rainforest, showers of rains were expected as students walked through the steep sceneries with meandering paths. Experienced tour guide, Jean Mugabo, led themthrough the forest, and ensured they fulfilled their dreams by reaching the waterfall point and returning safely. Luckily it did not rain.
Nyungwe Forest National Park hosts 38 reptiles and 1,068 plant species, according to information provided by the Rwanda Development Board (RDB). The park also possesses medicinal plants and fruits eaten by people and animals.
The final leg of the trip took the MKUR party to Nyungwe Cultural Village, an oasis offering mouth-watering local cuisines coupled with Rwanda’s cultural experience. The venue offers an authentic experience of traditional banana brewery, a chance to enjoy Rwanda’s traditional folklore, songs, and dances.
“Field trips are useful educational tools for transforming learning experiences beyond the traditional classroom. They help students gain confidence and acquire a positive learning attitude. MKUR recognises this, and guides students to new levels of awareness and independence.,” said Mr Okumu.
Students interviewed had become better due to an increase in field trips to acquire hands-on experience. Clarisse Tuyikunde, a third-year student, said field trips have transformed her learning outside the classroom.
“I can now explore new environments, make connections, develop trust and interaction with professionals from the industry, thus acquiring more knowledge,” she said.
Luc Manzi, a third-year student, said MKUR’s upcoming Kigali Paramount Hotel will play a significant role in enhancing students’ practical knowledge and experience.
The university’s approach to practical learning emphasises hands-on experience in the industry, and the field trips offer the perfect opportunity for students to gain practical experience and interact with professionals from the industry.