A group of students with disabilities at the University of Rwanda’s College of Education (UR-CE) has expressed concern about their future after their registration and accommodation facilitation was scrapped.
The seven students who have been pursuing their studies under the special needs education department at the Remera-based UR-CE said they were unexpectedly asked to pay registration and accommodation fees.
They claim the college withheld their four-month living stipend saying it would be used to cover the registration costs, yet the students argue that they depend on such allowances for survival.
Claudine Mukasine, a representative of the aggrieved students, said the new development goes against the commitment that the varsity made at the point they were being admitted – free registration and accomodation for students with special needs.
She said this facility started in 2008.
The students said they have been tasked to pay Rwf70,000 in registration fees for the last and current academic years, noting that the university also withheld their four-month bursary fees amounting to Rwf100,000.
The students have since written to officials in charge over the matter but by press time they had not yet received any feedback.
“The first letter was addressed to the Ministry for Education requesting for an update on the letter written by the former minister for Education, Charles Murigande, concerning the facility for students with special needs.
‘‘The other was to the National Council for Persons with Disability (NCPD) to help us in this matter,” she added.
“We were not notified about these changes. Otherwise, if only they had told us earlier, we would have looked for a solution,” said Esther Ntakirutimana, another affected student.
NCPD executive secretary Emmanuel Ndayisaba said they were having discussions with Rwanda Examination Board (REB) on how to resolve the matter.
“We know about this problem and are working on it. The challenge originated from the reforms the University of Rwanda undertook,” he said, adding that they would do everything possible to ensure that these students complete their studies.
Speaking to The New Times, Mary Kobusingye, the special needs education/inclusive education coordinator at the Ministry of Education, said they had advised the students to try and pay registration fees by themselves while waiting for a solution.
“Our ministry doesn’t take decisions in isolation and we shall try to help these students,” she said.
Dr Papias Malimba Musafiri, the Minister for Education, said he does not know about the UR policy regarding vulnerable students.
“I have no idea of such fees waiver for this group, but such students are always given priority when it comes to student loans and bursaries, which normally is meant to assist them in their living conditions. I need to ask the University if they have such a policy and what happened this time around,” said Dr Musafiri.
Prof Philip Cotton, the vice-chancellor of the University of Rwanda, said regarding accommodation fees, the alternative is that these students can pay in instalments to ease payment burden.