Varsity students stranded as courses are suspended

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Stranded students at Gitwe University after the suspension of some academic programmes. JD Ntihinyurwa.

AS THE FOG cleared over the country yesterday morning, Bienveillante Ishimwe would have swore it came with a damning symbolism to her education aspiration.

Ishimwe, like many of her fellow students at the University of Gitwe in Ruhango District, found out that their dreams were heavily beclouded with the suspension of their courses.

The university administration had called for an impromptu meeting with all students only to inform them that the Ministry of Education had temporarily suspended three academic courses over inadequate staff and teaching facilities.

“They called us this morning and informed us about the decision and gave us circulars to take to our parents, we are heading home,” Ishimwe, a second year student of Medicine and Surgery, told The New Times.

Ishimwe said it was shocking to students as they were learning and the university has got enough laboratories and other facilities.

“An audit might have been done before facilities were set up, for us, we had no issue with facilities. This is a serious blow. With Rwf1.2 million we pay in tuition and other expenses, this is demoralising,” the student added.

The decision affected over 1,500 students undertaking three undergraduate courses; Medicine and Surgery, Science in Medical Laboratory and Technology, and Nursing.

But what is wrong?

According to Dr Innocent Mugisha, the director of Higher Education Council, the decision followed a recommendation of comprehensive audit carried out late last year.

The audit, carried out by external auditors hired from abroad, assessed whether higher learning institutions operating in the country meet all the requirements set up by the Ministry of Education to ensure quality education, according to Mugisha.

At least 15 higher institutions of learning received the letters.

“Some of them were asked to temporarily suspend certain courses or operations and given up to six months to meet the recommendations. Quality education is a continuous process and is never achieved, it is when it is at the minimum level that an institution is suspended,” Mugisha said.

However, he declined to name the institutions that were entirely or partially suspended.

“I will not go into details, each institution has specific issues. It was done generally but each institution was given a letter and the report showing where there is a gap to fill. Students from the affected universities will have to be patient; training is not about rushing to qualify when quality is compromised,” the academic said.

A mini-survery by The New Times revealed that other institutions that face suspension are Rusizi International University in Rusizi, Nile Source Polytechnics of Applied Arts in Huye and Sinhgad Technical Education Society in Kicukiro District.

Universities react

Officials from the affected institutions say the decision was both ‘surprising and shocking’ and that they are engaging the ministry.

In a letter, Dr Jered Rugengande, the vice-chancellor of Gitwe University, described the suspension as a ‘wrong decision’ saying they had fulfilled all the requirements set by the Ministry of Education.

“In December last year, and again last month, we wrote to the Ministry of Education requesting to carry out an assessment on what we had done after the audit but it never happened and we were surprised by the decision to suspend those courses,” reads the letter in part.

However, Rugengande said the university will comply with the decision as they engage the ministry over fresh assessment and reopening.

Last month, Senators asked the Government to move swiftly and assess the country’s higher education sector to address issues affecting it such as poor infrastructure, inadequate resources for students’ living and class practices as well as poor funding for academic research.

The 14th National Leadership Retreat, which closed earlier this month, also resolved that government should take further measures to improve the quality of education at the tertiary level.

Rwanda has 35 higher learning institutions, including two public (University of Rwanda and the Institute of Legal Practice and Development).

editorial@newtimes.co.rw