Legislators have failed to agree on the necessity to pass a law establishing the National Rehabilitation Service (NRS) as they sought more clarifications on what the agency will do and how it will work with already established transit and rehabilitation centres for delinquents.
Last month, the Government tabled a Bill that seeks to establish NRS as an agency in charge of coordinating government efforts to prevent, rehabilitate, and reintegrate street children, drug addicts, sex workers, and other delinquents back into society.
But during Tuesday’s plenary session in the Lower House, MPs postponed discussions about the draft law when they reached its Article 8 and found it unclear about the body’s responsibilities.
At the centre of debate is whether the agency will be both an implementing agency managing rehab and transit centres and be a regulator at the same time and whether rehab centres in the country should have the obligation to offer education and technical skills.
The Government has proposed such arrangements in the draft law governing the body, with NRS likely to take over the management of all district transit centres for delinquents and still be a regulator for privately-run rehab centres, while the agency is also in charge of ensuring that delinquents acquire technical skills.
The latter assignment left some MPs wondering whether rehab centres won’t be easy routes for those who want to benefit from technical education while that’s a role for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) centres.
“We would be encouraging young people who failed to get education to go to the streets so they can be picked up and taken to the rehabilitation centres so they can benefit from some technical training offered there,” said MP Edouard Bamporiki, one of nearly 20 legislators who boycotted the final passing of the law at Tuesday’s session.
Under NRS’s proposed responsibilities, the body’s mission would include ensuring those delinquents and other persons whose acts or behaviours used to be against public order and morality and who are transferred to rehabilitation centres are provided with psychological support or counselling and get education that includes professional skills that will help them after leaving the centres.
The Minister of State for Community Development and Social Affairs, Dr Alvera Mukabaramba, has said that rehab centres need to include technical skills training on their programmes to ensure that former delinquents leave the centres when they are ready to be useful in the society.
“Most of the people on the street are young people without education. So, if a young person ends up on the street because they aren’t educated what would you be doing if you let them go back to the street from a rehab centre without a few skills,” she told journalists after the session.
Apart from disagreeing on whether rehab centres should offer technical skills training as part of their responsibilities, MPs also wondered whether NRS will be directly involved in managing rehab and transit centres instead of leaving the job to districts and NGOs and only work as a policy advocate and regulator.
“The parliamentary committee should revise the body’s responsibilities in this bill and make them specific on how the agency will work with both government and private rehab centres,” said MP Marie Médiatrice Izabiriza.
MP Eugène Barikana agreed that more discussions are needed on the bill before it could be passed into law because there was still a lot of misunderstandings and disagreements on how the agency will work.
“We are not agreeing on a number of articles in this draft law. We should have more extensive discussions before we continue with passing it,” he said.
At the sitting, debates on the bill in plenary sessions were suspended and MPs in the parliamentary committee on social affairs that is analysing it was invited to conduct further analysis and work with the government representatives to address the issues raised.
While introducing the bill in the House last month, Mukabaramba justified setting up NRS, saying that efforts to fight delinquency in the country are currently scattered and that it remains difficult for the government to follow-up on rehab programmes and make a difference.