KIGALI - As the number of students joining public universities increases by the year, and construction of new facilities getting more expensive, the government is considering to partner with private investors in the construction of new buildings, for which they will on a long-term basis.
This was revealed, Thursday, by the Education Minister, Dr. Charles Murigande who was appearing before the Senate to explain the state of the education sector.
The minister had been summoned following a report by the senatorial committee for social affairs which highlighted major challenges the sector is faced with.
Among issues raised by the Senators in the 69-page report is the shortage of buildings as the number of students joining public universities continues to grow each year.
The Senators cited the National University of Rwanda (NUR) which has facilities meant to accommodate only 2,000 students and today has over 10,000 students.
The senatorial report said ISAE Busogo has infrastructure for 400 but has a population of over 2,500 students.
“It is indeed true; the number of students joining university has more than doubled in the last few years. Unfortunately we don’t have the capacity to double the facilities. It requires time and enough resources and currently these are not available,” Murigande told the Senators.
He said government is in talks with an American company to come and construct high-rise buildings at NUR which they will own but government buys them out over a long period.
“This Public Private Partnership model has worked for universities in the US and this company has experience in this area---we will apply it on NUR, if it works then we can take it to other universities,” Murigande explained.
Murigande urged universities to start internal financing initiatives, citing an example of Kigali Institute of Technology and Science (KIST) which has managed to construct four new buildings through internal financing and is currently constructing a fifth one funded by the African Development Bank.
He said that as a measure of reducing congestion in universities, government will encourage them to start long distance e-learning so that students don’t have to necessarily attend classes.
“One of the things the fibre optic will help us deal with is congestion. With reliable internet facilities in place, universities can conduct lessons online.
We are also in talks with bigger companies like Motorola to provide wireless internet country-wide to boost the ICT based Education programme,” Murigande told the Senate.
On the issue of universities employing more expatriate lecturers than local professors, the minister said there are a few Rwandan Senior Lecturers willing to teach in universities because they don’t find it lucrative.
“We have a problem where our own professors don’t want to teach in local universities. They prefer working for NGO’s and corporate companies who they pay them well.
This leaves us with no option but to look for foreigners who are willing to work here, but of course at a cost,” Murigande said.
The report indicates that at NUR, the Vice Rector in charge of Academics (an expatriate) earns a salary of over Rwf 5.5m while the Vice Rector in charge of Administration and Finance, a Rwandan earns slightly over 1.3m despite the two being on equal footing in the university hierarchy.
On primary education, Murigande said government through the National Curriculum Development Centre is working on major reforms to overhaul the curriculum emphasising more on imparting knowledge and a hands-on education system.
He said the government has procured and is distributing 7.2m books for primary schools, over 40,000 books in secondary schools while an order for 2.2m more books for primary and 900,000 books for secondary schools has been placed.
Among other issues raised in the report is a major shortage of infrastructure for both Primary and Secondary levels and with the introduction of the 9 Year Basic Education, schools are prone to congestion.
Murigande assured the Senators that most of the issues raised will be catered for but said that it is a process and that under the Vision 2020 programme, identified reforms in the sector are already being carried out but begged for more time, since most of them require resources.