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Rwandan Prime Minister Challenges Cal. Baptist Graduates

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University graduated a record number of students

By Chris Levister

The Right Honorable Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, Prime Minister of the Republic of Rwanda, shook hands, kissed babies and reaffirmed his commitment to human rights and the need for widespread political reform throughout Africa during a combined visit to California and to deliver a commencement address at California Baptist University in Riverside.

From the colorful kente cloth sashes worn by several Rwandan graduates to the warm breeze that wafted over the sea of faculty and guests, Habumuremyi’s visit was a festive stop on an international campaign to strengthen ties between Rwanda and the U.S. Habumuremyi, who served as that African nation’s minister of education from May 2011 to October 2011, addressed the graduates of the private school in Riverside on Saturday. He said his presence there underscored the strong bond between his nation and the United States “and the leadership of this great university.”

In December 2011 the U.S. and Rwanda ratified the U.S.-Rwanda bilateral investment treaty (BIT) aimed at promoting open trade and investment.

The Rwandan official expressed pride in the first cohort of Rwandan students to receive their baccalaureate degrees under a presidential education agreement California Baptist University established with the East African nation in 2007.

“Rwanda’s sons and daughters, attending CBU under the Presidential Scholarship program have over the last four years carried out the unique responsibility of being Rwanda’s first ambassadors to CBU, and I am confident that they will go on to serve with distinction as CBU’s ambassadors to Rwanda when they return home,” Habumuremyi said.

Until 1994, educational opportunities for Rwandans were extremely limited. After the genocide, most primary schools and more than half of prewar secondary schools reopened, though no more than 5% of the adult population received secondary education through 1996. Although educational quality remains an issue, access to education expanded dramatically in recent years and the Government of Rwanda’s Nine-Year Basic Education policy, implemented in 2010, contributed to an increase of the primary school completion rate from 52.4% in 2008 to 79% in 2011. Free basic education was extended from 9 years to 12 years in 2012.

He congratulated all of the graduates on behalf of Rwanda’s president, His Excellency Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan people.

“As your friends and family, we share in your joy and are very proud of what you have accomplished in the course of your undergraduate education, both in and outside the classroom,” Habumuremyi said. “It is now incumbent upon you all to put to good use the knowledge and skills you have acquired from CBU and your passion to learn.” California Baptist University (CBU) graduated a record number of students during spring commencement ceremonies surpassing the 1,000-graduate mark for the fourth consecutive year. The Class of 2012 numbered 1,330 graduates, the largest in the 62-year history of CBU.

Dr. Ronald L. Ellis, CBU President, conferred degrees on a total of 281 graduate students and 786 undergraduates in separate ceremonies on Friday evening and Saturday morning. Another 263 students were eligible to graduate at the December 2011 commencement ceremony.

Dr. Richard L. “Rick” Miller, Superintendent of Riverside Unified School District spoke at graduate ceremonies held Friday evening. Miller told students receiving master’s degrees that they were “joining the top 10 percent nationally in educational attainment” and said that privilege comes with a responsibility. “As a member of the top 10 percent you will be responsible for leadership in our society,” Miller told the graduates. “You have been equipped by your professors and staff here at CBU, so there is little question that you know what to do. Now the question becomes, what will you do and will you make a difference?”

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