Over 140 students risk losing UR admission over 'computing error'

When Valentine Ujeneza's name appeared on the website of the newly created University of Rwanda a few months ago, she was ecstatic.
Students at former SFB (now College of Business and Economics) check their marks on the notes board in 2011. (File)
Students at former SFB (now College of Business and Economics) check their marks on the notes board in 2011. (File)

When Valentine Ujeneza’s name appeared on the website of the newly created University of Rwanda a few months ago, she was ecstatic. 

Even after government had tightened the selection criteria for students to benefit from state sponsorship for higher education, she had managed to secure full scholarship and the monthly stipend of Rwf25,000.

Two months into her course at the University of Rwanda’s Kigali-based College of Business and Economics (CBE), a new list of those to benefit from government sponsorship appeared. Her name was missing.

“I went to Rwanda Education Board (Reb) offices to inquire and when I asked what had happened, I was told that I did not acquire the grades required to earn the scholarship,” she said.

Ujeneza, who studied Mathematics, Economics and Geography (MEG) in secondary school, said she had applied to study at UR and followed all the instructions as they were set and subsequently got admitted.

She said when applying to study at university, Reb did not specify the threshold, in terms of marks needed for one to be admitted.

She said she scored 43 aggregates out of the maximum 73 and after initially appearing on the University of Rwanda’s website as one of the 15,000 students admitted this year, she paid the required Rwf58,000 registration fee.

“We were registered and started attending classes like the rest, but this abrupt change has destabilised us and left us in a dilemma,” she lamented.

Ujeneza is one of over 140 students affected by what officials at Reb say was a computing glitch, where results for some students formerly in technical or vocational schools were mixed up with those in formal secondary schools.

When contacted, the Director General of Reb, Dr John Rutayisire said indeed, 142 students would be disqualified and would lose their scholarship after a “computing error” was discovered.

He said when they released the first list that was sent to UR, they made it very clear that this was a provisional list, and a final one would be released, and that they insisted on doing a double check because the online application software had been used for the first time.

“We apologise for the error made because it affected students who were admitted at UR.

However, any change made was intended to improve the list so that criteria are respected. We did not intend to victimise any student,” he said, adding that giving the students the undeserved privilege could spoil the fairness they wanted to achieve.

Rutayisire said in case a student got admission undeservingly, it has to be rectified, adding that the same principle applies even in ordinary life when a person gets unfair privilege.

“In principle, an error is rectified anytime it is detected. Therefore, it is not justifiable to say that since time has elapsed or someone has started class, the situation would not be improved,” he stated.

Prof. Nelson Ijumba, the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Research at National University of Rwanda, said the criteria considered for one to be admitted were having passes in two principle courses for the combination that a student did in secondary school – at least 18 points in humanities and 24 points in sciences out of the maximum 32.

It is understood that UR, which was created following the merger of seven public institutions of higher learning, does not determine who gets government scholarship but rather, they only look at the ability of the students to study there, depending on what they scored during the national examinations.

A source from Reb who spoke to The New Times, yesterday ,said the students may be allowed to continue their studies as private students while those who will not manage to pay tuition will be refunded their registration fees.

Private students at UR pay Rwf600,000 annually.