The future of hundreds of University students hangs in balance following a directive to expel all students who joined university without the mandatory requirement of two principal passes.
They have been ordered to pack and leave universities because they were irregularly admitted without following the guidelines of admission. Following a 2007 directive from the Ministry of Education, for anyone to qualify for admission to a university, they must have obtained atleast 2 principal passes at A level.
However some Universities have ignored the directive and have been admitting students without the two principal passes over the years. The mood at Universities is tense as the affected students ponder on what to do next. Over 130 students are said to have been affected by this move that has largely left them wondering what their next step could be.
Clarisse Umutesi, a student at Rwanda Tourism University College (RTUC) says, “My future is bleak. I had invested all the little money I had in my education with the hope of working hard and getting a scholarship now it is all gone. I don’t know where to turn to. If the ministry cannot do anything about our situation, then who can?”
Clarisse is not alone; Aristide Mupenzi also a student at RTUC almost shed tears. “I am an orphan who has been staying with a guardian. My guardian had agreed to pay for me tuition but now I don’t think he will be able to pay for me to repeat senior six. Why didn’t these university officials tell us before we joined? The ministry should penalise them because we (students) are already paying the price for their mistakes.”
Education Ministry speaks out
In an interview with Education Times, the Minister of Education, Hon. Vincent Biruta said the Ministry is only implementing a policy which the Universities have been well aware of but ignored. “We did not chase any students because we don’t have that prerogative. We merely implemented a policy that has been in place since 2007 but was largely ignored by some university officials,” Biruta explained.
The policy states that, “No student with less than two principal passes should be admitted to any higher institution of learning.” This policy was not implemented until October 30 2012 when the Ministry of Education together with the Higher Education Council circulated a letter to all top university officials reminding them of the set standards they are supposed to adhere to.
In a document seen by Education Times, all university officials whether public or private duly signed this document accepting to adhere to the set standards although they clearly did not.
Many written reminders from the Ministry and Higher Education Council were sent but were ignored. Students are now complaining of the loss this move has generated in terms of time and logistics.
Students affected most are those in private universities although ministry officials say that not all universities are affected. The universities that were affected the most include Institut Laique Adventiste de Kigali (INILAK), Byumba Polytechnic Institute, Rwanda Tourism University College ( RTUC ) and Institut d’Enseignement Supérieur de Ruhengeri ( INES ).
Asked if the Ministry would punish university officials implicated, Minister Biruta said “We couldn’t do that. It would only serve as a catalyst for more misunderstandings. We called the concerned officials and they apologised. We recorded their apology and we seriously warned them that further disobedience would result into serious consequences.”
However, according to several students, this does not solve their problem. “Imagine, my parents sold their only piece of land to support me, I had just finished paying rent and stocking food to take me up to December but now I don’t know what to do because the landlord cannot give me back my money neither will I throw away the food I had just bought. My parents are devastated they don’t know what will become of me,” said Emmanuel Hakizimana, a student from INILAK.
However, Minister Biruta said not all hope is lost. Article 9 in the minimum set requirements for admissions states that, “In the case that a student has failed to get two principal passes, he/she can study a professional course that can help to bridge the gap in his/her final Senior Six results”. For example, if a student wants to study IT he can do a certificate in basic computing to compensate for the marks he/she failed to get.”
He further said, “Universities should organise themselves together with the students and we all sit and discuss how this problem can be solved besides these students can join Technical Vocational Education and Training institutions (TVET) , they are also vital and helpful.”
A top ranking university official and one of the leaders of the Association of Private Universities in Rwanda who preferred anonymity, stressed the need for government to help them set in motion the mechanisms developed to help arrest this problem.
“We have a meeting on December 1 and December 2 in Huye to discuss how we can help each other. Students should not despair; the association is looking into this problem.
Dr. Innocent Mugisha, the acting Executive Director of the National Council for Higher Education also echoed the Minister. He said that numerous reminders were sent to the university officials since 2007 and many admit that they erred by not adhering to the policy directives.
He stressed that those who have been affected by this policy can still join technical vocational institutes and that universities should refund any money they took from them because it was never the students’ fault.
Massai Kairanga, student
It’s not fair, they say government wants to improve the quality of education but stopping these students may not solve a thing. Instead the Ministry of Education should embark on improving the quality of education in secondary schools by recruiting qualified teachers and also improve on the facilities needed for students to better their grades. I don’t know what is happening in the ministry, they first stopped scholarships, later removed the retakes and now this, it’s like they don’t want students to join university anymore.
Clarisse Iradukunda, student
I think universities shouldn’t be hastily stopping these students, instead they should look at their performances in the university because sometimes students perform poorly in high school and later improve while at the university. They should judge them basing on their performance at the university since they have the will to further their education despite their poor performance at high school level.
Ibrahim Kwihangana, parent
It’s not fair. If it is the policy being implemented then it should start with those who are just joining university not those who are already enrolled at the university. They shouldn’t discontinue those who are already at campus because it is a waste of their time and money despite the fact that their tuition is being refunded, other expenses have not been catered for.
Elizabeth Abiyeyimana, student
I personally agree with the university’s move to stop students who performed poorly in high school from continuing with university education. This is so because it’s hard for one to catch up at the university, if they couldn’t perform at the low level it’s hard for them to catch up and yet one needs to be intelligent to have a bright future which is what I think the universities are doing; grooming these students for a good future.
Nkaka Raphael, lecturer
It is according to the regulations because the Ministry of Education ordered universities to discontinue students without the required marks. Personally I think it is a good move because it will improve on the quality of education since students will be required to work harder if they are to join universities.Follow https://twitter.com/KaremeraDean