An 8 per cent reduction in the education budget has led to objections from stakeholders who say there is need to allocate substantial funding for pre-primary and primary education.
The appeal was made during a meeting on public budgeting for children last week which brought together civil society organisations, development partners, ministries of Finance and Education, districts, and other partners, in Kigali.
The advocacy is part of a three-year project dubbed “accountability for children’s rights in Rwanda” being implemented by Save the Children in partnership with Children Voice Today and is funded by European Union.
The project seeks to strengthen capacities of child focused civil society organisations and children groups to engage effectively with the government’s budgeting processes.
Caroline Dusabe, the chair of the Rwanda Education NGOs Coordination Platform (RENCP) said a recent study on investment in children showed that, although there was an increased access to education in Rwanda, equitable access to primary education for both rural and urban children remained a challenge that needed to be addressed.
“We identified a decline in education share of the national budget from 21.3% in 2006 to 12.3% in 2015/16,” she said.
The activists say there was an increased spending on higher education yet this benefits only 1% of learners while district education budgets don’t take into consideration poverty levels, especially at the primary level.
“We recommend that the government considers increasing education share of national budget to 20% in 2017/18 and subsequent years as well as consider increasing the budget share for pre-primary and primary education,” she added.
They also recommend exploring how to make pre-primary education free and pursue strategies to enable increased access for the poorest children by removing barriers related to hidden costs.
Also recommended was to strengthen budget execution monitoring and address issues that cause under spending with clear strategies on strengthening the system and capacity building.
They also requested for review of districts’ budgeting and equitable allocation for improving the quality of education.
Dusabe said children should have rights in budget process.
“Delivering services for children when you do not know what they need is an issue that can lead to dissatisfaction with the services or can even delay those services,” she said.
“We have issues; for example, in the quality of education, where we realised that primary school students have issues in reading and mathematics yet they are about to join secondary schools. This stage of learning in P1-P3 must be focused on for improvement,” she stressed.
Zachee Iyakaremye, the budget management and reporting officer at the Ministry of Finance, said, while presenting 2017/2018 budget process, that EDPRS costing requires that at least 50 per cent of national budget goes to priorities such as education and health.
The budget process, he said, started in August last year by looking at priorities while in January this year there was central and local government consultations.
Government plans to spend Rwf 2,094 billion in the fiscal year 2017/18 which is Rwf140.7 billion higher compared to Rwf1,954.2 billion in the 2016/17 revised budget, according to the Budget Framework Paper (BFP) presented before both chambers of parliament by the Minister for Finance and Economic Planning Amb. Claver Gatete, last week.