The Open University of Tanzania (OUT) that opened its doors in Rwanda in 2012, Friday graduated its first lot of students at a ceremony held in Kibungo, Ngoma District.
The ceremony was attended among others by its chancellor Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, the director of Higher Education in Tanzania, Prof. Sylvia Temu, the executive director of Rwanda National Council for Higher Education, Innocent Mugisha and Eastern Province Governor, Odette Uwamariya.
The chancellor conferred 25 graduands with Masters Degrees in various fields such as Environmental Studies, Education Administration, Planning and Policy Studies, Community Economic Development and Social Work.
Migiro, who is also the Minister of Law and Constitutional Affairs in Tanzania, said the university offered knowledge and skills important in addressing social economic challenges.
“The graduates were given enough package…we expect them to use their expertise to solve community issues.
The topics they covered in their research papers are very relevant to the actual needs of the people,” she said.
Prof. Samwel Wange the chairman of OUT, said the decision to have the 28th graduation ceremony in Kibungo, Rwanda came from an initiative of the OUT management and the authorities in Rwanda, as a way of making OUT better known to citizens of Rwanda.
“By hosting this event, we wish also to attract more people to join our programmes, at the level of undergraduate, Masters and Doctorate degrees,” he said.
Wange said OUT was able to handle many students at an affordable cost without compromising the quality of education.
He further said that OUT would soon open a branch in Kigali but hastened to add that the Kibungo campus would not be closed.
“We believe that efforts towards sustainable development in Rwanda and Tanzania, through higher education using open and distance learning have now started to bear some fruits”.
Mugisha said it was interesting that that cross-border investment also bring in education.
“Cross-border investment in education encourages exchange of staff and students in universities. OUT thus brings in a good understanding of the concept of Common Market Protocol as underscored in the East African Community,” he said.
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Tolly S.A. Mbwette, called for a waiver in some taxes. “If we are to go by the East African protocols of free movements of labour, goods and students, some taxes should be waived. The fact that the items we bring in to facilitate education in Rwanda are taxed makes our humble investment unsustainable.”
Mbwete said the presence of OUT was a result of collaboration in EAC which should have given the university preferential treatment on taxes.
“There is a limit at which we can manage to operate amidst the taxes on educational tools and materials. We only came to offer services and make ourselves felt in the region, but not to make profit,” he said.