Why Rwandan students opt to study abroad

Statistics from the Rwanda Education Board show that apparently there are over 1128 Rwandan nationals on undergraduate, post graduate and PhDs in different courses worldwide.  Eric Kabeera & Irene Nayebare sought to find out why.
Kigali Institute of Management graduands adjust their mortarboards . Education Times/ Timothy Kisambira
Kigali Institute of Management graduands adjust their mortarboards . Education Times/ Timothy Kisambira

Statistics from the Rwanda Education Board show that apparently there are over 1128 Rwandan nationals on undergraduate, post graduate and PhDs in different courses worldwide.  Eric Kabeera & Irene Nayebare sought to find out why.

Hundreds of Rwandan students annually cross the borders of Rwanda in pursuit of higher education in different countries not only on the African continent but also in Asia, Europe and North America.

Statistics from the Rwanda Education Board show that apparently there are over 1128 Rwandan nationals on undergraduate, post graduate and PhDs in different courses worldwide.

Some students who talked to The New Times expressed different reasons why they choose to leave the country; some say the education system is still not competitive enough.

Zoe Kamahoro, a first year at Mukono Christian University in Uganda, pursuing a degree in Mass Communication says that she wanted to improve on her reading culture, and learning English since the two issues were still a challenge among the local institutions of higher learning.

 “When I’m at university we use English throughout. We have experienced lecturers and adequate libraries and other equipments which some universities here lack,” she mentioned. She observed that English is a significant factor that needs at least to be considered if she’s to compete on the market. The issue of English is still a challenge in the country especially after the country turned to English from French.

With Rwanda being a member of the East African Community, it was imperative to use English. Among the mechanisms government initiated was to recruit English teachers in the country though it is still a challenge since most children and entire population were more familiar with French and struggled with the dominance of Kinyarwanda.

Alex Ntare a Rwandan who did a Masters degree in Investment and Quantitative Finance from the University of Westminster, London UK said that studying abroad provides enough exposure with the global dynamics something that eventually develops a student mentally.

“They normally have the best practice and their courses are more practical than those in Rwanda and other African countries; you find that with the environment around you, one gets exposed to community that understands the industry,” he said in interview.

Asked about the matter, the Education Minister Dr Vincent Biruta said the government had injected more investments in the education system to make it competitive like others in the region. He however asserted that it was also government’s plan to provide scholarships to the nationals to study abroad.

“Students cross for reasons that vary from personal ones, but we can’t say that it is only for education. More so we give scholarships to students who want to do their masters programs in Rwanda and not only to Rwandese but also to students from the East African community” he said. Rwanda offers scholarships to deserving East African students to pursue studies at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University (Rwanda).

The ministry also has mutual agreements with other countries where both nationals are entitled to equal treatment. For example Rwandans studying in South Africa are treated and pay the same tuition fees like South African nationals and this has encouraged many to take advantage of this window and headed south.

Under the East African Community arrangement once education is harmonised more students are likely to cross the borders as it will be easier to transfer credits and also have their certificates recognised in the whole region.

Steven Mugisha an educationist and a publisher in Kigali pointed out that the education system was competitive enough however adding that some people tend to go for education abroad due to poor attitude towards the education system here.

“It’s all more of mindset we have been brought up an environment where everyone thinks westerners are superior than our systems here. There infrastructure facilities which are well equipped to facilitate the students”, he stated.

It is also interesting to note that the establishment of some foreign universities here has to some extent curbed the flow of students away from Rwanda. Carnegie Mellon University is a world class US institution that now has a campus in Kigali thereby saving students the burdens of acquiring a visa to go to the US for the same kind of education.

In the same spirit, Mount Kenya University has also attracted many students who may be interested in a Kenyan certificate. Interestingly more foreign universities are set to open shop here and compete for the same students that would have crossed the border or boarded a plane to the West. Last year Oklahoma Christian University also inaugurated a campus in Kigali to offer a Masters Degree programme in Business Administration.

 

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