Govt removes Ubudehe from scholarship criteria

Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente presents a report on the implementation of the 2018 Umushyikirano resolutions on the first day of this year’s edition at Kigali Convention Centre on Thursday. Photo: E. Kwizera.

The Government has announced its decision to scrap Ubudehe social stratification in the process to award university bursaries and only consider student performance.

Ubudehe is a socio-economic stratification system based on family assets.

This was announced by the Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente on the last day of National Umushyikirano Council on Friday.

Ngirente’s announcement was prompted by a question posed by Théodosie Uwihirwe, a primary school teacher from Burera District.

Uwihirwe, who had tuned into Umushyikirano from the Northern Province site, said that primary school teachers were faced with a challenge to cover tuition fees for their children after government placed them in Ubudehe category three.

“I would like to request that Ubudehe categorisation be removed as one of the conditions based on to offer a student a bursary but, instead, award scholarships to students based on what they wish to study and the marks they attained,” she said.

Currently, only students from the first and second categories are entitled to government scholarships, but only on condition that they attain the set pass mark.

The third category is entitled to only 20 per cent while the fourth category is expected to fully fund the student’s education.

All the categories are expected to pay back these loans once they graduate and start working.

During the selection of bursary beneficiaries, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects are prioritised.

Performance based awards

In response, Ngirente said that his office was working with four ministries and other partners to fix this challenge but promised that Ubudehe will never be part of the scholarship criteria again.

“I can assure you that Ubudehe will not be one of the conditions we will be basing on to award any student scholarship. It will purely be based on the student’s knowledge and marks,” he said.

Welcome news

Léon Mugabe is the Coordinator of Rwanda Education for all Coalition (REFAC), a local NGO that advocates for students’ rights, told Saturday Times immediately that the government had delivered ‘justice’.

He said that using Ubudehe as a condition for one to get University bursary was, from the beginning, unfair since it deprived brilliant students an opportunity to join university based on the assumption that their parents can afford paying their tuition.

“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,” he wondered.

The tuition fee for STEM programmes at University of Rwanda is Rwf1.5 million per year and Rwf600, 000 for non-STEM programmes.

Samuel Nteziryayo travelled from Kaburanjwiri Cell, Gisagara District to attend Umushyikirano. He told Saturday Times that scrapping Ubudehe categorisation as part of the criteria was ‘good news’.

“Many people in category three can’t afford paying university tuition at all. This is going to give our children an opportunity to compete based on their input not on social stratification, which is not necessarily always clear-cut.

Sam Munderere, a father of four and a person living with disabilities, told this reporter that by subjecting students to Ubudehe categorisation based on their family assets was segregative.

“This process was unfair. What the Government has done is an equaliser. Students can now compete for varsities education opportunities based on their performance, not on how rich or poor their families are,” he said.

According to the 2018 figures, 4,963 students received government scholarships to study at University of Rwanda in the 2017-2018 academic year.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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