EDITORIAL: Open-door student loan policy way to go

It is commendable that the government is going to re-evaluate the scholarship policy and peg it on merit, even if the beneficiary comes from a well-to-do family.

What’s the saying again? “If education is expensive, try ignorance”. Pre-Genocide Rwanda is a prime example of the consequences of lack of investments in education.

In 1990, there were only 175 secondary schools in the whole country with 26,521 students. That translated to about one secondary student per square kilometre.

Today, the numbers speak volumes; schools have multiplied ten-fold while currently accommodating 655,000 students. As can be imagined, education in pre-Genocide Rwanda was a privilege.

The many obstacles to obtaining a place in high school meant that only the well-connected went through. In university, it was even worse. Because of the stringent conditions, many who had entered through the back door were dropped by the wayside and it was common to find a graduating class of five or six people.

The current government’s education policy has been an open-door policy but with priority given to the most vulnerable. While the distribution of government scholarship was based on social classification, Ubudehe, it was unfair for some, especially those who had been wrongly classified yet they could not afford to pay for themselves.

It is therefore commendable that the government is going to re-evaluate the scholarship policy and peg it on merit, even if the beneficiary comes from a well-to-do family. After all, it is a loan that will have to be repaid.

The Student Financing Agency for Rwanda (SFAR) should shift into a financial institution mode where qualification for a student loan should meet standard conditions, and merit. It should not shut anyone out but rather strengthen its loans recovery unit so that many others can benefit from the programme.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com