Students naturally experience financial stress due to various reasons which puts them on pressure to look for all means possible to survive. One choice some take is to find a part-time job. The main reason why a student will normally choose to get a job while at school could be to cater for their living expenses as well as gaining work experience in a certain field.
For Pascal Gatsinzi, now an employee at University Teaching Hospital, Kigali (CHUK), he started working while in his first year so as to earn himself some little money for upkeep.
“As an orphan, I was dependent on my auntie for everything. When I joined university, I had to start learning how to be independent to lessen her burden,” he says.
Gatsinzi says he used to market products for two companies during weekends and in the afternoons, while using the remaining time to study. He says he managed to pull it off because he cultivated a good understanding with his bosses.
Jean Marie Kalisa, a third-year student at University of Rwanda’s College of Education, says the only way he has been able to survive is to look for a job to help him cater for the daily expenses.
He says the living out allowance of Rwf25,000 he gets after three months is not enough to cover his expenses. “The job which I have is related to my field of study, but at the same time I get some little money which has seen me through the last two years,” he says.
Kalisa says he has managed to do this because of the leadership skills he got while in high school that taught him to balance the two tasks with ease.
Is it a healthy practice?
According to Dr Michael Tusiime, head of department examination and accreditation at Rwanda Education Board (REB), the reasons for a student’s choice to work while studying or not to may vary, but they are both welcome.
The problem, however, he says is when working while studying compromises academic performance.
Depending on the school schedule, Tusiime says if one has free time during the weekends and in the course of the day, a student can use that chance to do certain jobs to enrich their CV. For instance, if one is doing an accounting course and they get a part-time job in that field, it makes their studying experience better because they can relate the theories to the practical bit. This positions them better to land a job after graduation.
“Although students should primarily do what took them to the university, working is motivated by many factors. However, if the reasons are legitimate, it’s a good idea to balance the two.
“But whatever the choice, it should not impede their academic performance. Such students need mentors to orient and help them make better choices,” he says.
Filling the unemployment gap
George Birasa, a tutor and mentor at University of Rwanda’s College of Education, says in most cases, students struggle to find jobs after their studies.
One of the best strategies not to fall in this group, he says is to look for a job, most especially one related to their course, so that that they build trust between them and their employers early.
“When such students complete their studies, it’s easier for them to get absorbed easily than someone who has no working experience,” he adds.
On the other hand, Birasa points out that, for students doing business-related courses, they should use their free time while in school to create their own brand or small enterprises within or outside school.
“This creates an opportunity for them to be recognised by companies or individuals who have the same enterprise but need someone whom they can work with in certain areas. By the time such students complete school, their chances of either fitting in the competitive world or getting a job are higher than those who haven’t done anything,” he explains.
Paul Swagga, a tutor at Akila Institute for Women, Kibagabaga, thinks it’s a good idea for an undergraduate to get a job as long as they are able to balance work and studies.
He points out that the money which they get from their job facilitates their studies in terms of upkeep such that they do not rely entirely on their parents for financial support. This income, he adds, can be used as start-up capital after school.
“After school, if a student has all the skills needed to start a business and has capital, it’s easier to start a business instead of waiting to be employed. This is just one way of helping solve the problem of unemployment,” he says.
Working while studying, Swagga says equips young people with work experience and, they are able to relate what they study with what they are expected to do in the field of work.
“My advice to such students is that they should always schedule their priorities both at school and at the workplace to ensure that they succeed in both,” he says.
On the other hand, Isaac Dhumba, a teacher at Ecole La Colombière, Kigali, believes that it’s ideal for any student to work, even before joining university.
“I have realised that when looking for a job after university, many employers ask for working experience, meaning that if one had a job even when in school they stand a better chance to clinch that opening,” he says.
Dhumba says having a job while still a student introduces you to life’s challenges as well as survival skills. “That job helps you get connected to a network of people that might help even after school.”
He adds that this experience introduces a student to aspects like financial freedom and independence, which they need to cope after school. “Having a job teaches a student how to budget for what they have earned other than that gotten from parents or guardians.”
Why you need a job related to your area of study
If the job falls in the student’s field of study, Dr Alphonse Uworwabayeho, a lecturer at University of Rwanda’s College of Education, says the benefits are even greater. It’s an opportunity to gain relevant experience and build a network of people that could be beneficial after graduation.
“Such jobs provide students the opportunity to network with professionals in the area of study. This is just one avenue that will help them fit in the labour market after school,” he says.
Tusiime, on the other hand believes that jobs related to one’s career will help students perform better in their studies, as they complement what is taught (normally referred to as workplace-based learning).
Alice Kabando, a Kigali-based entrepreneur, is of the view that although choosing a job that is in the line with your career is ideal, even job offers from an unrelated field also help students develop desirable professional skills such as time management and team work.
She suggests that students from not well-to-do families should opt for weekend and evening programmes so that they have time to do part-time jobs to supplement their parents’ efforts.
Florent Sibomana, teacher
Working while studying is another way of getting wholesome education, which will be helpful in future. Another important aspect is that students should also work closely with the community to identify potential areas of employment after school.
Venuste Munyeshyaka, final year student and employee at StarTimes
Having a passion in what you are pursuing as a student also gives you morale to look for some work on the side to add value to what you are getting in class. It’s easier to balance the two if one is driven by that motive.
John Nzayisenge, director, Good Harvest School, Kigali
Before deciding whether to start working while studying, students should first seek guidance from a career guidance expert as they are in the better position to help them on what is right for them. Besides, if work seems to interfere with academics, it’s better to quit and concentrate on studies first.
Anitha Mbabazi, parent
Parents should be supportive when it comes to guiding students on how to juggle the two tasks. However, if parents are capable of providing for their children while at university, it’s better to let them r focus on studies first.