The year 2019 was marked by multiple policy changes, particularly in the education sector. Education Times’ Bertrand Byishimo looks at some of the highlights. International varsities find a home in Rwanda 2019 saw new international universities finding a home in Rwanda. On January 25, the President inaugurated the University of Global Health and Equity in Burera District. On September 2, President Kagame also inaugurated the medical faculty of the Adventist University of Central Africa (AUCA) in Masoro, Northern Province. This university shall welcome the first cohort in 2020 and is expected to use the International curriculum. Students’ random placement 2019 commenced with the introduction of a new policy of mixing up students and orienting them in upper grades, randomly. The education body had said earlier that the policy was not to be seen as a risk to students, teachers or parents. Dr Isaac Munyakazi, Minister of State in Charge of Primary and Secondary Education, explained that previously, head teachers would select their own students, thus an imbalance, but with the new policy, REB is the one to allocate them, hence, no imbalances in different schools. The new system went into force at the beginning of 2019, and selected students were randomly placed into schools, without consideration of their grades, as has been the practice. Yet, with previous years, students would join schools based on their grades. On the other hand, some people claimed that it was unfair for students who had worked hard to get into an excellent school only to be sent to another to help those with lower grades. Others also claimed that whenever bright students are mixed up with weaker ones, it raises laziness even to those who were energetic, but when you combine the best students, they work hard. Students during a lesson. Net photo. With that, the Ministry of Education said that combining them would raise teamwork and build an environment where students work together to help one another. Teachers’ pay rise The extraordinary cabinet meeting of January 28 2019 confirmed the following: The raise of teacher’s salary by 10 per cent which made teachers put in more effort in their work. 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 with a teaching experience of three years will get a fully funded scholarship for undergraduate studies in education. Every Bachelor’s degree graduate in education major after a teaching experience of five years, will also be given a fully funded scholarship for a Master’s degree. Gitwe, HEC clash The Higher Education Council on January 29 2019, made a decision to permanently close the doors of two faculties of the 7th Day Adventist University of Gitwe. Those faculties are medicine and surgery, together with medical laboratory technology. According to HEC, the decision was put into effect after having found that the university did not comply with the requirements set by HEC. Gerald Urayeneza, the vice-chancellor of the university, said HEC was giving his university a hard time yet he had done all he was required to do. The students in those faculties were re-oriented in some branches of University of Rwanda but claim, to this day, that they are not ‘treated like other students’. UNIK financial crisis The University of Kibungo experienced a dire financial crisis in 2019. This included salary arrears spanning almost year. Incidentally, the university’s management placed the blame of their predicament on delayed payment of school fees by students and late remittances by agencies such as the Fund for Genocide Survivors (FARG) that covers the fees of some of the students. Lecturers said that it was also due to the irresponsibility of administrators, as different heads of the institution came, introduced their leadership style and when it failed, no one was held accountable. In 2004, this university was admitting 4500 students but now, they have less than 1000. Minister of Education, Eugene Mutimura, recently visited the university and instructed a two-week audit that will give out new guidelines. Exit of unqualified teachers The Ministry of Education has for many times pointed out unqualified teachers as one of the leading causes of failure to achieve quality education. 2019 was the deadline given to educators to have all required qualifications by the end of the year. The qualifications needed were to have at least a Bachelor’s degree in education. In May this year, Ministry of Education told the parliamentary council in charge of education, culture, youth and technology that qualified teachers in primary schools are at 98.6 per cent whereas in secondary schools, they are at 76.5 per cent. One teacher-per-class policy The Ministry of Education announced that by 2020, every class will be having one teacher in an academic year. The statement was announced in a meeting with district vice mayors, faith-based organisations and other stakeholders in the sector during the first week of the month of December 2019. In the January 2020 academic year, a system in education known as “Professorat” in French, or localised as “Porofesora”, will cease to be operational. The system is built in such a way that each subject has its own teacher, from primary one to primary three (P1-P3). According to Dr Eugene Mutimura, the Minister of Education, this approach will be dropped with the aim of improving the quality of education. The Minister 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. He claims this is to simplify the management of the students by one teacher. However, some people identify concerns of getting one teacher with the capabilities to teach all lessons. U-turn on Kinyarwanda Recently, the Government of Rwanda through The Ministry of Education decided to drop the use of Kinyarwanda language in lower primary schools as a medium of instruction. This raised a lot of confusion as such changes had been made several times. However, experts told Education Times that policies can vary and change anytime as long as something is not working out. Ubudehe removed from scholarship criteria The Government announced its decision to scrap Ubudehe social stratification from the criteria to award university bursaries and only consider student performance. This is a socio-economic stratification system based on family assets. It was announced by Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente on the last day of National Umushyikirano Council of 2019. “We are very happy because Ubudehe categories have nothing to do with education and the categorisation itself is being revised. It costs at least Rfw1m for university education per year. How many parents in Rwanda can easily afford that,” Léon Mugabe, the coordinator of Rwanda Education for all Coalition (REFAC), a local NGO that advocates for students’ rights, wondered.