2019 presented multiple policy changes, particularly in the education sector. Despite the challenges brought about by those changes, Rwanda’s education sector welcomed new universities and the changes made are hoped will drive the education sector to a better destination. Some of the changes, especially removing Kinyarwanda as the medium of instruction in lower primary schools, raised concerns and sparked social media debates about whether the Ministry of Education was doing the right thing. Sunday Times looks back at the major developments and challenges in the education sector in 2019. Ubudehe scrapped from scholarship criteria In one of the most catchy stories of 2019, the government announced the scrapping of Ubudehe social stratification in the process of awarding university bursaries, paving the way for a new system where only students’ performance will be considered. Pupils clap during a lesson. French and English were reintroduced as medium of instruction in lower primary schools. / File Announced by the Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente during the Umushyikirano, the development was welcomed by many people. Léon Mugabe, Coordinator of Rwanda Education for all Coalition (REFAC), a local NGO that advocates for students’ rights say the government delivered ‘justice’ with the new initiative. 10% increment on teacher’s salary, more privileges to TTC students An extraordinary cabinet meeting that met on January 28, 2019, confirmed among many things the raise of teachers’ salary by 10%. Tuition in Teacher Training schools was also reduced and all experienced teachers were allowed to further their studies on a scholarship. In this new guideline, it is expected that any TTC graduate who has teaching experience will get a fully-funded scholarship. Every Bachelor’s Degree graduate in Education who has teaching experience of five years will also be given a fully-funded scholarship for a post-graduate degree. English, French return as mediums of instruction in lower primary Towards the end of the year, the Ministry of Education made a U-turn when it allowed the use of foreign languages as a medium of instruction in lower primary, replacing Kinyarwanda. This raised a lot of confusion as such changes had been done several times. However, experts reveal that policies can change anytime as long as something is not working out. The decision was favorable to a number of parents because they were planning to take their children to international schools, where tuition is very expensive. Owners of private schools also breathed a sigh of relief as most of them were afraid of losing students. Introduction of random student placement policy This year saw the introduction of a new policy that will see random orientation of students’ upper grades, as opposed to the previous procedure where headteachers would go and select the best students. The new system went into force at the beginning of this year. It randomly selected students and placed them into schools, without consideration of their grades as has been traditionally the practice. In the previous years, a student would join either boarding school or 12-year basic education, basing on their grades. Two big medical universities find home in Rwanda Two international universities teaching medicine also found a home in Rwanda in 2019. In January, President Kagame inaugurated the University of Global Health and Equity in Burera District, an institution that intends to turn medical students into health experts and solve the leading health problems in Rwanda and across the globe. The medical faculty of the Adventist University of Central Africa (AUCA) was inaugurated in September. / File In September, the president inaugurated the medical faculty of the Adventist University of Central Africa (AUCA). The institution will welcome its first cohort in 2020 and it is expected to use the international curriculum. Major crackdown on unqualified teachers A crackdown on unqualified teachers finally took shape. The Ministry of Education had several times pointed out unqualified teachers for being one of the leading causes of failure to achieve quality education. 2019 was the last year given to all educators to have all needed qualifications by the end of the year. The qualifications needed were to have at least a Bachelors Degree in Education. In May this year, the Minister of State in charge of Primary and secondary studies told the parliamentary council in charge of education, culture, youth and technology that qualified teachers in primary schools were 98.6% whereas in secondary schools they were 76.5%. He said that those teachers have been informed before as such, anyone who will not be complying with the regulations by 2020 shall be sacked. Reintroduction of the one teacher per class policy 2019 also saw the Ministry of Education announced that by 2020, each class in lower primary school shall be having one teacher in the academic year 2020. Eugene Mutimura, the Minister of Education explained that each class will now have one instructor assigned to teach all subjects and an assistant for schools which have more than 70 pupils per class. Education minister Eugene Mutimura. He said the move is aimed at simplifying the management of the students, however, some people echoed the worry of getting a teacher with the capabilities to teach all lessons. Gitwe Varsity, HEC disagree on faculty closure The Higher Education Council (HEC) on January 29, 2019, took a decision to permanently close the doors of two faculties of the 7th Day Adventist University of Gitwe. The faculties are Medicine and Surgery together with Medical Laboratory Technology. According to HEC, the decision came in effect after having found that the university did not comply with the requirements set by HEC. Gerald Urayeneza, the vice-chancellor of the University sued HEC but lost. The students in those faculties were re-oriented in some branches of University of Rwanda’s College of Medicine and Social Sciences but some still claim that they are not treated like other students. University of Kibungo debt woes The University of Kibungo is one of the universities that experienced the greatest debt this year. These included the eight months’ salary arrears owed to lecturers. Apart from that, the University leadership said they owe money to citizens of Kibungo as well as several government institutions and the total debt amounts to Rwf2.5 billion. Egide Gahima, the vice-chancellor of the University said that these debts arose due to the big number of shareholders taking money out of the university instead of reinvesting it. However, lecturers accused administrators of the University of incompetence adding that every person who heads the institution introduces their leadership style and when it fails, it affects the University. In 2004, the university admitted 4500 students but have less than one thousand students at the moment. Minister Mutimura recently visited the university and directed a two-week audit that will give out new guidelines.