Scholarships and student loans / bursaries scheme
To ensure education for all, the government introduced the student bursary and loan scheme to help those that can’t afford higher education. The scheme selects students to study in both local and foreign higher learning institutions. Foreign scholarships are funded by the government, cooperation or Memoranda of Understanding with foreign universities.
Desire Gacinya, the Head of Higher Education Students’ Loan Department at Rwanda Education Board, says that in the last seven years, Rwanda is among the few countries that managed to adopt the system and successfully implement it.
The bursary scheme was introduced in 1980. With the increase of students, bursary loan was initiated in academic year 1999/2000. The loan scheme that allowed parents to pay 25 per cent or half of the tuition fees was initiated in 2008.
In 2011, selection was done according to Ubudehe or social categorization until the academic year 2014- 2015 when the selection was also based on the demand at the labour market, among other conditions.
Application for admission and study loan
In the last seven years, the application for admission of study loans has been made easier where Rwanda Education Board and the Workforce Development Authority publish A level results and then University of Rwanda and IPRCs call for applications from interested candidates.
The eligible students with 2 principal passes apply for admission in UR and IPRC’s and after they are admitted, students are eligible to apply for Government study loans.
The admitted students who need Government-study-loans fill application forms which must be signed by the mayor to confirm the Ubudehe category of the applicant. “REB staff, using the signed forms, verifies and confirms the Ubudehe category for each applicant, there after the list of applicants with the Ubudehe category, senior six marks and course to be attended is uploaded in the REB-MIS. Based on the available budget, REB/ MINEDUC publish the list of Government sponsored students” explains Gacinya.
The selection process
For students to be selected in the scheme there are a number of conditions taken into consideration; These include 1) Performance on Senior 6 National Examinations, 2) the course admitted to by UR (more consideration given to high demand courses), and 3) the category. High priority is placed on STEM and TVET courses.
In academic year 2016-2017, a total of 28,000 high school leavers applied for the student loan scheme and 20,478 were selected.
Although the system has been supportive, there are challenges connected to it. The challenges include some students who are not comfortable with their categories as well as complications in recovery of funds due to the fact some benefactors want to dodge repayment.
BRD in student loan disbursement
To enhance the service as well as ensure equity and transparency, Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD) took over the management of student loans and bursaries from Rwanda Education Board in October 2015.
REB is now in charge of selection. The service was taken to BRD, given its competence and expertise in disbursement and recovery.
This transition improved service delivery in the scheme with timely disbursement and loan recovery for sustainable education financing.
It is expected that the scheme will sustain itself, independent from government funding in the next ten years.
The interest rate for loan payment was also raised from eight to eleven per cent.
According to Gacinya, only the employed are paying back the loans in-spite of the fact that some of them have low salaries while others are un-employed, resulting in delaying recovery.
To simplify recovery, Rwanda Education Board and BRD are working with other institutions such as Rwanda Revenue Authority, Rwanda Social Security Board, among others to trace people who are supposed to pay. “This partnership will help us improve the scheme,” said Gacinya.
A total of 105, 109 students have so far been supported by the bursary and student loans scheme since 1980. About Rwf 13 billion has been recovered.
Rwanda Education Board and the education sector as a whole have been engaged in significant reflection and revision in order to improve the access and quality of basic education with an aim to graduating learners equipped with 21st century employable skills. The good progress REB has made in the last seven years will continue to be expanded and improved. The Competence Based Curriculum will be used all across basic education by 2018 and REB will continue to focus on improving pedagogy for teaching and learning, increasing teachers’ capacity for using English as the medium of instruction, and integrating positive Rwandan values and critical thinking into every lesson.
The promotion of STEM is a key priority for the education sector and REB is committed to encouraging motivated and high performing learners to pursue STEM courses without fear. To assist with this, and to improve efficiency and management of schools, ICT access and integration in teaching and learning will continue to be scaled up in schools across the country.
Finally, REB remains committed to supporting development of safe, inclusive, and positive environments conducive for teaching and learning in every school.