The academic transcripts that some graduates from Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) use to secure jobs could be fake.
The New Timesinvestigation into how TVET students secure and conduct their internships has established that the process involves cases of forgery and bribery.
The finding raises doubts on the quality of students from TVET schools and could prompt calls for a review of the way students secure and do their internships.
For instance, a TVET final year student who preferred anonymity spent the better part of what was supposed to be her internship period trying to secure placement, with various organisations rejecting her application for reasons she claimed were ‘frustrating’.
This happened between October and November, the period set by TVET institutions for students to carry out their internships.
“An official at one institution told me that they had no place for me because they had a big number of internees while the other was only offering internships to University students,” she told The New Times.
Two weeks to the end of the internship period, she secured placement.
“Sometimes public and private institutions ignore our applications because we go there on our own and spend most of our time applying rather than practicing,” she said, stressing that TVET institutions ought to support students in securing internships.
Other students who spoke to The New Times on condition of anonymity due to fear of being discontinued from their academic programmes said that a number of students who fail to get internship placements resort to forgery.
“Some of my classmates were examined without doing internship. For instance, there is a friend who gave me their internship papers so that my supervisor can give them free marks after they struggled to find the internship,” said a student from a Bugesera-based TVET school.
When a student fails to get internship placement, she said, they look for a relative or a friend in any organisation to sign for them and get free marks without actually having done the internship.
Those who don’t have “connections”, she added, are forced to forge documents, including the stamps and signatures.
Others have raised concerns of corruption, where some institutions solicit for money in order to offer placement for internship, something that is illegal.
Theodore Habimana, the Standards and Guidelines for Quality TVET Specialist at Workforce Development Authority (WDA) says that: “Paying fees for internship to institutions is unacceptable and it could be happening because of lack of partnerships between TVET schools and employing institutions.
A good employer, he says, would instead pay some money to an internee for their contribution towards the organisation’s operations.
“We are going to follow it up because internship is part of the studies a student undertakes,” he added.
A TVET student operates a machine recently at the Integrated Polytechnic Regional Centre. (IPRC)-Kigali.
Some TVET managers said that students hardly communicate with schools when they fail to secure internships, and hence miss out on possible facilitation.
“We have cases of students who forged documents at our school because they either failed to get internships or use the internship period to do part time jobs,” said Robert Ryumugabe, the Director of VTC Rwaza, in Musanze District.
However, he added, schools don’t tolerate students who forge internship documents just because they struggled to find internships.
Solange Uwamahoro, the Director of Qualification, Licensing & Accreditation Unit at WDA, told The New Times that they were aware of the cases of forgery.
“Partnership with industries and other institutions is one of the standards we base on to give schools accreditation. Partners must be offering services related to the courses offered by the partnering schools so they can deploy students there during not only internships but also other practical workshops,” she said.
Emmanuel Rugenera, from Manumetal, recently said they can only host students recommended by their schools according to the Memorandum of Understanding they signed with WDA.
“Students cannot be given internships if they don’t have recommendations from their respective schools. To comply with the MoU signed with WDA, we can find space for students sent by their schools,” he said.
Uwamahoro warned TVET schools that send students out to apply for internships on their own.
“No student should go out to apply for internship on their own, the school is supposed to do it for them by building partnerships with different institutions so they can host them during internship period and visit them to make sure the intended practical skills have been acquired,” she said.
TVET schools speak out
Herman Nteziryayo, the Manager of College Baptiste de Ngarama in Gatsibo District, said that the school works with parents to find internships for the students near their homes but added that some private firms are reluctant to offer internships.
“I think there is need to raise awareness among the private businesses because some are yet to understand why they should offer internship to students,” he said.