UR: Proposed budget increase a big boost

Officials from the University of Rwanda (UR) have welcomed a recent decision by the Government to increase its funding by 40 per cent effective next financial year.
Happy graduates celebrate after receiving their degrees. File
Happy graduates celebrate after receiving their degrees. File

Officials from the University of Rwanda (UR) have welcomed a recent decision by the Government to increase its funding by 40 per cent effective next financial year.

The Minister for Education, Eugène Mutimura, last month said the Government would allocate Rwf36 billion to University of Rwanda in the next fiscal year, up from the current budget of Rwf25.2 billion to ease the varsity’s financial woes.

The minister, who was addressing the parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Technology, Culture and Youth, said that the budget for the country’s largest university would further be increased in the 2019-2020 fiscal year, when it will almost double the current budget.

According to Dr Charles Murigande, UR Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Institutional Advancement, the budget increase comes as a relief as UR projects that are meant to help achieve its mission had been affected by shortage of resources.

He said that while University of Rwanda’s mission is to contribute to the development of the country through producing capable and competent graduates, carry out research on issues or challenges the country faces, it was not possible due to limited funding.

“In the past, we were not able to carry out and achieve this mission because of the limited resources we had. For example, we were not able to provide conducive learning and teaching environment as some of our laboratories were not well equipped, maintained and adequately supplied with reagents. We do hope that the increase of the budget will allow us to improve our teaching and learning environment,” he told The New Times.

He noted that the increase will also help the university support industrial attachments for its students unlike currently, when supervisors are not able to reach them easily.

Murigande added that the budget increase would allow the university to support students in acquiring practical training through deploying them in industrial attachment and field work for those who are doing mining, geology, agriculture, environmental sciences, biodiversity, among others.

“Currently, we are not able to really provide them with practical experience because of lack of resources; the budget increase will enable us to do that. We will support students to the best of our capacity, in some case we shall give them money and in other cases transport,” he said.

Part of the funding will be used to pay staff on time, something the official said would improve quality education as lecturers will give the best of themselves knowing that they are supported by the management through regular payment of their salaries and even mission allowances.

“Although the funding is not really targeting research per se, when staff are motivated, they can also apply for research grants and, therefore, the budget increase will have an impact on development of our research capacity,” he said.

He said that though there is never enough funding the university is more ambitious.

“The budget increase will also support close to 50 per cent of the operational cost and the University of Rwanda is challenged to generate resources to cover the rest,” he said.

What lecturers say

UR lecturers said the budget increase was long overdue and urged the university to allocate the money accordingly.

“Lecturers teach in the various UR colleges but we have been finding it difficult to even get transport. We are supposed to be given mission allowances but they delay and we are forced to sort ourselves, besides some have unpaid arrears, the budget increase should address these issues,” said Faustin Mutwarasibo, the secretary of the academic and research staff association.

He added that lecturers need resources to carry out research, while the varsity also needs improved infrastructure and ICT equipment.

The decision to increase funding for University of Rwanda came months after the university’s officials admitted they were experiencing difficulties in delivering on their mandate after the Government cut funding.

UR’s state budgetary allocation was cut by 50 per cent from about Rwf26 billion in 2013 to about Rwf13 billion in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

The cuts strained the University, prompting the Government to bail it out by adding Rwf17 billion to its budget in the last fiscal year, 2016/17.