Tharcice Munyandamutsa used to earn a living from a business he started around the former National University of Rwanda, currently University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences University, through hostels he built for students.
The resident of Tumba sector in Huye district used to get about Rwf600,000 per month from his thirty room hostel located in Cyarwa cell popularly known as Kwa Rusumbamiyenzi as it is named after a nickname he was given some years ago.
However, all did not go well as over the past year, the business almost closed after the University started restructuring and relocated some students to other colleges outside the town.
Huye Campus became the most affected as it almost lost half of its student body, according to officials.
“I lost all my clients in the process and I closed the business because most of the students left our hostels to live inside the campus,” he told Sunday Times recently.
“The University of Rwanda had encouraged us to construct small affordable hostels for students and we did it, some of us got loans from banks and we got worried after the relocation of students from Huye to other colleges. You can imagine the losses I incurred over the past several months,” he added.
Munyandamutsa also says that moving students from Huye campus affected the entire city and the business community as the university contributed a lot in the city’s development.
“The city almost died, it was once a vibrant city and business people could get a lot of money from students. The campus was always open even in holidays but now you rarely see people and the movement is not as it was before,” he said in reference to the University’s beehive activity six years ago.
Part of Madina hostels that used to be full before the number of students reduced at the University of Rwanda's College of Arts and Social Sciences
However, the worries of Huye residents will be no more as the Ministry of Education recently announced that some courses like those of Journalism and Communication, ICT, Management will be returned back to Huye Campus in October.
The student population is expected to increase from 5,500 to 9,000 which is the full capacity of the Huye College, according to the officials.
The university has the capacity to accommodate 4,100 students in its hostels and this gives a chance for the private sector to host about 5,000 students.
Many prefer to stay outside the campus staying out than in campus because the fees are a bit higher than private hostels.
“This is a great opportunity for us to revive our businesses, we hope that more students will soon book our hostels and we will again get money from our now dormant business. For the past months we blamed the University of Rwanda for having disappointed us because our business could hardly be transformed into another business as they were mainly designed for students,” Munyandamutsa said.
He is not the only person excited about the relocation of more students to Huye campus.
When Sunday Times visited Huye Campus and its surrounding hostels, Musa Maniraho was instructing some workers to paint the walls of his hostels known as Madina.
“We are thankful for the decision and this will not only help people with hostels but also those doing other businesses. I have hostels and three boutiques around here but I was hardly getting any money from them,” said Maniraho
“The hostels were almost dormant, we used to have them packed but now you can get one or two clients who occupy a room which used to be occupied by four persons, we are however excited and getting ready to welcome new students here, we hope business will flourish again,” he said.
Local businesses in the city also lost out when the student population reduced.
Restaurants, bars brace excited too
Immaculée Mungwakuzwe runs a restaurant in Huye city and believes that she will reap big from her business after new students join the campus.
“We hope that our business will boom once again because we will not be serving students alone but lecturers too, plus those who come to visit them. The restaurant business was not doing well because there are many in the business while the number of consumers hassignificantly decreased,” she said.
Jean Baptiste Sebukangaga, a veteran businessman believes that Huye will once again become vibrant as it used to be.
“People may think that the money that circulates here because of students is not something big but imagine if we got an additional 4,000 students who get Rwf25,000as bursary per month, that is about Rwf100million per month and almost all the money goes to the business community here every month, plus graduation events and other parties, we hope we will benefit more, besides students will come with lecturers and the movement will increase,” he said.
The government plans to increase the bursary fee from Rwf25, 000 to 35, 000 next year and Sebukangaga believes that the business community will benefit a lot as more money will be spent in the city.
Veteran businessman Jean Baptiste Sebukangaga is happy more students are coming back to Huye. courtesy
A golden opportunity
Ange Sebutege, the Mayor of Huye District said that the increase in number of students moving to Huye campus will automatically increase the number of service seekers hence boosting business in the area and improve the city vibrancy.
He challenged business community in Huye district to tap into the opportunity by providing better services.
“It means that those seeking services will increase. People who have hostels will have more clients and the business community in general will benefit. Traders have been complaining of a decrease in business because of the small student population but since the government understood their worries and brought back students, they have to put in more efforts to improve service delivery,” he said
Some of the hotels around the campus that used rake in alot of money before students were moved to other campuses.
According to Innocent Nkusi, the acting director of operations at the College of Arts and Social Sciences, the campus has started preparations to ensure that all is ready to receive the additional number of students.
“We have a team that has been touring facilities to look at the water system, electricity and fix some issues, we will also fumigate all hostels and we hope the work will have been completed before the academic years begins,” he said.
He added that negotiations were ongoing to see if the fees per person can be reduced from Rwf6,500 to at least Rwf4,000 for students so that more live in campus hostels.