Starting August 15, the fourth National Population Census will kick off in the country and preparations are in high gear to ensure the process is accomplished, void of any hitches. The New Times’ Ivan Mugisha sat with the Director General of the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, Yussuf Rurangwa, who took us through the nitty-gritty of the process that takes place for the fourth time in the country’s history.

Below are the  extracts:

Qn: How are funds going to be utilised in the census?
This is a long process that takes four to five years to finish. We started by funding the planning phase, where we plan everything after a number of consultations with concerned parties at national and international level, ministries, civil society, private sector and the local authorities. The other important phase is mapping the whole country. We map the whole country to the level of the village and enumeration area.

This is a tedious activity; it takes about one year and is also very expensive. Those maps help us to plan our operations and help to disseminate results according to geographical area, so that local authorities can know the results of the area. After that we carry out some training. First of all, for our staff, so that they can be able to carry out these operations. We buy cartography equipment and use high level technology, including satellite and printing technology.

We are going to train about 25,000 people countrywide, mainly teachers who will be collecting information. We have also trained 1,000 staff from sectors; two per sector. Each sector is giving us one official in charge of civil registration and another official in charge of education. We train them on how to use the data. It is important because the data has to be owned at local level and utilised properly.At the district level, we are training about 60 people, two from each district, and one in charge of statistics and another in charge of education.

Another chunk of that money is used to facilitate the people who will collect the information. And because we will be working during sunny days or rainy days, everyday, so things like umbrellas, boots will be issued, as well as some bit of facilitation.

Qn: Considering the fact that people migrate every day, how are you going to tackle the challenge of “double counting?”
To us, double counting is not a major challenge because, first of all, by demarcating, we make sure that a household in demarcated in a particular area and be covered by one person. So there is no way that a person will cross over to another place. Each household will be given a number in order not to be counted twice. In the way we ask questions, we will ensure that nobody is counted twice but most important, no one is forgotten.

Qn: Is it going to be a spot on activity, giving us the exact number of people in Rwanda or is going to be an estimate?
It will not be an estimate. Although we have to remember that you may count someone today and tomorrow, they pass away. Still it becomes an estimate in a way, but at least a very precise estimate.

Qn: How are you going to see to it that people answer rightly on the questionnaires?
First of all, the questionnaire has very basic and easy questions. We are not asking intimate questions, but what everyone else can see. When I come to your home, I already can tell whether you have or don’t have water, so these are obvious questions. Those who feel somehow intimate with some questions, we are sensitizing the public, so that they know what we are up to and we also assure them of confidentiality. We also train our enumerators on how to deal with people in the right manner, so we expect good responses.

Qn: How was the questionnaire developed and what are some of its important features?
Questionnaire development is a long and consultative process. We have a national census commission made up of 13 ministers, headed by the Minister of Finance with the Minister of Local Government the deputy chair.  We have a representative from the Private Sector Federation, media, civil society, learning institutions, as well international experts like the United Nations Population Fund. We have a technical committee that involves directors of planning as technicians who give orientation on how to develop the questionnaire. So we get orientation and draft a questionnaire and then have a series of debate to improve and make sure we get to a conclusive position where we all agree about a final questionnaire.

Qn: Considering that there is less than 20 days to go before the national census kicks off, do you think Rwandans are ready for it?
This is not a strange activity. Rwandans are used to answering survey questions, so I believe that they are ready to cooperate and respond.

Qn: What challenges do you expect to meet and what solutions do you have in your armoury?
The challenges that traditionally appear can be grouped in three categories: Funding, capacity to conduct the census and citizen participation. With time, we have built our capacity to handle these challenges and this time we do not see any challenge that may hinder us getting results. Technically we have strengthened our capacities.  The government and its partners have ensured that the funds available. So we believe that everything will be okay.

Qn: Will you require people to show their national IDs?
No one will be asked of an ID.

Qn:  Then how will you know that someone is Rwandan?
The principle in the census is about self confession and self awareness. So we expect people to tell us the truth about their nationality, just like we expect them to answer rightfully on all the other questions.

Qn: in case there is a significant error in the counting, do you have an escape clause? Do you consider recounting and re-verification?
Normally we take all precautions to make sure that there is no such error; and traditionally from experience, we haven’t had such problems. We have measures from the first day of the census to make sure that we have no under counting or exaggeration in any area. After the survey, we will do what we call a post-enumeration survey to check the quality of the census. Rwanda normally scores high in such surveys, we get about 98 percent and 99 percent assurances that it went well. We take no chances and make sure that everything is perfect.

Qn: How will you be able to count busy people, who leave home early and get back late?
When we visit a home to carry out a census and find that people are not around, we will leave a note asking them for an appointment. Therefore, we will be able to carry out the census at the time of their convenience, even during weekends. We know that many people leave their homes early in the morning and return back in the evenings after work. We however call upon all employers to give their workers at least an hour off to tend to the census.

Qn: Will you work at night as well?
Our intention is not to work at night. But in busy urban areas where it is very normal for activities to go on till 7 or 8pm, we can push it a little bit, especially if we have an appointment with a household. But beyond that it wouldn’t be appropriate for us because people are resting in their homes.

Qn: How is this census important to a Rwandan individual?
The most important thing about the census is to help Rwanda as a country to know where it is in terms of development for its entire population. We will be comparing where we coming from and where we are and where we want to go to. Therefore, it is a basis for planning future aspirations, which will also have a direct impact on the population’s wellbeing. Through the census, we will know each community’s level of access to facilities, infrastructure, employment, education… and therefore, direct actions.

Qn: When do we expect to start using results from the census?
The first preliminary results of the total population count will be available by late December and by the end of 2013, we will have comprehensive reports on everything from the census. By June 2014, we will be winding up and closing shop. While winding up, we will document all our activities, as well as dissemination of results and dialogue with the population, to help them understand the results. We also have ways of updating to remain in touch with the change in population.

Qn: Why can’t you harmonise the census similar to how East African Community partner states read their budgets concurrently?
This time it was scheduled to happen at the same time in Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. But Uganda postponed to next year. But I’m sure that finally, we will harmonize.

Qn: Any other comment you wish to add?
I want to take this opportunity to call upon all Rwandans to massively participate in the census because it forms basis for government to roll out different development programmes..

I would also want to call upon the press to help us in sensitizing the public to come forward for the census.

Help us to inform the people about its relevance. So far we commend the reporting that has been done by the press; therefore, we will continue to count on you as our partners.

SOURCE: The New Times