Employees of various private varsities across the country have expressed frustration over delayed salaries, saying it’s hurting their livelihood and affecting their ability to teach.
The New Times has established that the delays in paying both teaching and nonteaching staff are common among private universities and other higher learning institutions.
For instance, at the Ngoma District based University of Kibungo (UNIK), employees last received their salaries in August last year.
Some 32 staffers dragged the varsity to court seeking its intervention to force their employer to pay them.
As for the Christian University of Rwanda (CHUR), which runs two colleges in Kigali and Karongi District, some lecturers said they’ve spent eight months without pay.
Some varsity workers said they were contemplating quitting the trade, but fear they might struggle to get jobs elsewhere.
“I have not been paid for the last eight months and have no hope of receiving payment soon as the university management has kept a deaf ear to our queries,” said one lecturer at CHUR.
The varsity owes him Rwf3.5 million in salary arrears, he said.
“We need to pay for rent, buy food and other basic needs such as transport, but this is hard for us because of salary delays,” he said.
“We can’t teach properly as we are not motivated, life is hard and the quality of education is being affected as well,” another lecturer at UNIK, formerly known as UNATEK, said, disclosing that she was last paid in August last year.
“The university owes me 10 months of salary arrears. I am burdened with debts,” she says.
She disclosed that the university deployed a tactic of facilitating lecturers with transport allowance so they can continue teaching.
Everyone gets Rwf10,000 every week in transport allowance, she said.
“Some use the money to buy little food and come to work once a week. This affects the quality of education,” she adds.
Their challenges, she added, are worsened by the fact that varsity workers don’t belong to any trade union that can lobby for them.
The ministry of education does not intervene in such matters…only courts can help,” said a lecturer from UNIK.
The institution has 1,200 students, down from 4,400 in 2014, according to officials.
A lecturer told The New Times that the university has also proposed to reduce their salaries by 25 percent and start paying them consistently.
However, it was noted that it was reluctant to pay the salary arrears.
“Instead of paying us the arrears, the university wants to cut our salaries…they said it is mandatory and that whoever does not agree can leave,” she added.
A senior manager at the Christian University of Kigali told The New Times that the institution is dogged by poor management practices.
“The owner meddles in daily management of the university which should not be the case,” he said.
Christian University of Rwanda has over 2000 students from its two campuses.
Shareholders speak out
Prof. Pierre-Damien Habumuremyi, the proprietor of Christian University of Kigali, says the university faces a funding shortfall with its costs outstripping earnings.
“We experience a financial deficit as expenses outweigh the incomes we generate from tuition fees, which is a serious challenge for us,” he said.
He disclosed that the university has about 2000 students of whom 60 per cent pay their tuition fees regularly. Each student pay Rwf400,000 every year.
With 60 members of the staff it pays at least Rwf20 million in staff salaries and spends an Rwf20 million on rent as well as Rwf10 million in other expenses, he revealed.
“We are now preparing the payroll and hope our employees will have been paid by the end of next week,” Habumuremyi said, noting that employees will be paid their March, April and May salary arrears.
While the affected staff say the university owes them salaries spanning almost year, Habumuremyi says the cases defer from employee to employee but admitted many of them have not received their salaries for the past three months.
“We have to look for long-term solutions. We want to remain with 51 per cent and give out 49 per cent to other shareholders to be able to run the university smoothly,” he said.
Several attempts to reach the Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Egide Karugarama Gahima, for a comment were fruitless.
In an interview with this paper early in February, he said that such delays were due to the fact that students don’t pay tuition on time, exerting pressure on the varsity’s limited resources.
“There have been an issue whereby students delay to pay tuition fees while we use the same fees to pay lecturers and the staff, it is a bad system that affects our cash flow, hence failing to pay our staff,” he said.
“We are working on it and next term we will ensure that students pay first so that we don’t have issues of cash scarcity. We will first cater for the arrears as soon as we get money,” he added at the time.
However, nothing has happened four months later, according to the affected staff.
HEC weighs in
Emmanuel Muvunyi, the Executive Director for Higher Education Council (HEC), said he was not aware that private universities were not paying their workers on time.
“Private institutions have the autonomy to manage their business…if they don’t pay the staff we have to keep an eye (on them) because it is about the norms and standards and it could compromise the quality. Those who have complaints can come to us and inform us,” he said.