Govt reassures students affected by varsities course suspension

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Dr Innocent Mugisha Director of Higher Education Council addresses media during the press conference. Nadege Imbabazi

The Ministry of Education will not compromise quality of education by individual interests, an official said yesterday, reassuring hundreds of students whose courses were recently suspended at some higher institutions of learning that they would resume studies as soon as the requirements are met.

Last week, the ministry suspended operations of four universities and some courses in six other institutions over inadequate staff and teaching facilities, leaving thousands of students stranded.

Addressing the media, yesterday, the Education minister Papias Musafiri said the decision came after an external audit and other previous audits found out that the affected institutions had failed to comply with laws and regulations governing higher learning education in the country.

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Journalists listen during the press conference with ministry of education. Nadege Imbabazi.

The audit was carried out in October last year by international external auditors in all higher learning institutions, both public and private ones.

Musafiri said some universities get accreditation to start operations but fail to comply with the agreed requirements, with some losing qualified staff.

The suspension aims at protecting general public interest so that nobody is affected by poor quality of education as some of programmes are delicate and need more attention, according to the minister.

“This is mostly affecting students but we would rather wait for quality education than rush for mass education without quality. Students who can wait for reopening of their universities after complying will see positive changes but they have the right to move to other institutions,” he said.

“We will make all possible interventions to ensure that students are not the victims because this is not their fault. This will not be a general case but rather will differ from one programme to another and from one student to another.”

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A journalist asks a question during the press conference with ministry of education yesterday in Kigali. Nadege Imbabazi.

The minister said before the auditing process, the auditors and higher learning institutions jointly designed audit instruments and that the latter first conducted self assessment ahead of external audit.

“If the universities had qualified lecturers but you don’t find them there now and if they have lost their moveable assets we could do nothing other than suspending them,” said Musafiri, adding that such crackdowns will go on to ensure all universities comply with the regulations.

The four suspended universities include Rusizi International University (RIU), Singhad Technical Education Society-Rwanda (STES) in Kicukiro, Mahatma Ghandi University (MHU) in Gasabo District and Nile Source Polytechnic of Applied Arts (NSPA) in Huye District.

Six other universities some of whose undergraduate courses were suspended include University of Technology and Arts of Byumba (UTAB), Open University of Tanzania, in Kigali, University of Gitwe, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Institut Catholique de Kabgayi and Instut d’Enseignement Superieur de Ruhengeri (INES-Ruhengeri).

Sixteen varsities also received letters asking them to correct some anomalies.

Varsities, students fault ministry

However, some institutions and students say the Ministry of Education suspended them after they had got all the required materials and even asked to be reassessed for confirmation of standards.

Dr Fabien Hagenimana, the INES rector, said the auditors didn’t have ample time to carry out proper assessment.

Speaking to The New Times, he said the university has invested Rwf1.2 billion to buy lab equipment and now have requisite materials to offer quality education.

Besides, Hagenimana added, INES has been helping various institutions carry out research in various areas such as testing construction materials, soil tests in agriculture, among others.

“The auditors spent here three hours, interacted with the staff and concluded that we did not have requirements, we were surprised because we are confident we have all the requirements,” he said.

“A comprehensive audit should take longer unless they knew what they were looking for, and they would have shared with us the report to cross check and comment but it was kept for five months, only to come with the suspension letter.”

Hagenimana said that between 1,200 and 1,300 students have been affected by the decision.

In the meantime, Hagenimana said the staff from affected programmes are still doing research and will be kept as their employees until the Ministry of Education reassesses the varsity and reopens its suspended programmes.

Blaise Ujeneza, an undergraduate student of General Medicine from University of Gitwe, said she was not sure whether they would not be asked to restart programmes or if those who seek to transfer to other institutions will get tuition refund.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw