Deliberations between the Ministry of Education (Mineduc) and Rwanda Development Bank (BRD) on the modalities of the implementation of higher education loan scheme are scheduled to resume this week.
The two entities are scheduled to meet to discuss modalities under which university students will access education loans straight from the bank as opposed to the current arrangement where the government pays bursary for eligible students to institutions of higher learning.
The scheme’s implementation was postponed following an acquisition of 77 per cent stake of the bank by Atlas Mara Group last month.
The acquisition deal involved splitting the bank’s activities into two business entities; the commercial operations to be run by Atlas Mara, and its development work, to be retained by government, according to the memorandum of understanding.
Addressing the media yesterday, Sharon Haba, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Education, said the new management was still interested in the higher education loans scheme implementation.
“The interest of the new management is evident and we have scheduled a meeting this week to agree on the modalities of taking that interest forward,” Haba said.
Prior to the acquisition of the bank, a feasibility study was commissioned that eventually showed that the transfer of the tertiary education financing system from Rwanda Education Board to Development Bank of Rwanda would create a more efficient service delivery of bursary.
Addressing students’ challenges
Fred Mugisha, the director of policy research and planning, said after reviewing the results of the feasibility study, the bank and the ministry would soon reach a decision on the implementation modalities.
Once functional, the bursary scheme is expected to help address the challenges of the current students’ loans scheme, which include poor operational systems and the mindset of loan beneficiaries in terms of loan repayments.
It is envisaged that the new financing system will progressively be able to increase the students who access the study loans from the current percentage of 16 to 36.
Education minister Silas Lwakabamba recalled that the policy of higher education funding had been revised this year and approved by cabinet.
This follows the increase in the number of students in the country’s higher learning institutions dependent on the funding.
“Previously, we used to have about 3,000 students in higher learning and were supported by the government. All that was required was a letter of admission and they would get funding, which is not possible now. Presently, we have about 85,000 students, University of Rwanda alone has 33,000 students, with 21,084 requiring government support,” Prof. Lwakabamba said.
The minister said at Rwf60 billion, Rwanda Education Board’s budget was insufficient to fully cover all the students.
Under the new policy and instructions, students in Ubedehe categories 1-4 are eligible to apply for a study loan that will cover 100 per cent of their tuition fees.
The new policy is also alligned with market demand of the courses as well as student pass marks.