The Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) has moved to effect a ban on improvised students’ hostels, known among students as ‘ghettos’.
Citing safety concerns for students, MINEDUC, last month, circulated a memo to schools and district officials imposing the ban.
The implementation of the directives at most schools was to take effect at the beginning of the new term, which started last week.
The ghettos, according to officials, had become popular among students mainly under the 12-Year Basic Education (12YBE) programme, which was initiated by government in 2012 to ensure all children attain education up to at least A-Level.
At least every sector in the country has a school under the programme and since none of the 12YBE schools has boarding facilities, students living far from school had resorted to the ghettos to avoid making long distances.
Others claim they have been forced to move to other sectors where combinations of their choice are offered.
“12YBE was initiated in line with education for all. We appreciate it. Unfortunately; so many schools don’t have subjects of our interests. We change schools to find those subjects,” a student from one of the schools in Rwamagana District said.
The decision to discontinue all the facilities stem from a countrywide survey conducted by the Gender Monitoring Office in partnership with MINEDUC and local authorities, which found they had become dens for delinquency.
In line with gender-based violence prevention and response mechanism in secondary schools, the assessment was conducted in over 40 12YBE schools sampled from ten districts from all provinces and three districts of the City of Kigali.
The survey found that illegal hostels in hidden and unsecure places promote students misconducts as well as living them vulnerable to security threats.
Eastern Province took the initiative to ban all such facilities effective the beginning of the term, which started last week.
Speaking to The New Times about the decision to clamp down on ghettos, Odette Uwamariya, the governor of Eastern Province, said such unsecured hostels put personal interests before students’ safety.
The students from 12YBE are day scholars and there is no need of hostels except under exceptional circumstances. Imagine most of these children’s parents do not know where they live or even the leaders,” she said.
The State Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, Olivier Rwamukwaya, said there were too many dangers associated with ghettos, especially since most students stay together and without any supervision saying that such include prostitutions, unwanted pregnancies, drug abuse, and violence as some of the consequences.
“In exceptional circumstances, we are encouraging parents and schools to find how particular students can be legally accommodated near the school but in premises known to them,” Uwamariya said.
Rwamukwaya speaks out
Minister Rwamukwaya said all districts and schools concerned had been notified of the decision, and that special emphasis was being put into protecting girls who live in these establishments.
“I take this opportunity to call upon parents, all institutions, authorities and security organs to support in banning those substandard and illegal hostels,” he said in an SMS to The New Times.
Reacting on the reasoning that some students abandon schools because of lack of variety in combinations offered, Rwamukwaya said that combinations are introduced every year based on both the demand, availability of the budget to recruit qualified teachers and infrastructure in place.
“Because students want to go to schools of their choice doesn’t mean exposing their lives to danger while living in substandard facilities. The students may rather go to private schools with safe boarding facilities, if public schools around their homes don’t offer what they want,” Rwamukwaya added.
Osée Abel Eloi Maniribuka, the head teacher of Groupe Scolaire Mbati in Kamonyi District, said that the school experienced such a case of illegal hostels last year.
“Something should be done to arrest the situation because these hostels are deplorable. Subjects of students’ interests should be introduced,” he said, adding that last year, they had to stop students who wanted to live in ghettos, saying that at that age, students are too young to live by themselves.