OVER 500 students from the Kigali Institute of Technology (KIST) are currently stranded after the institute abruptly stopped the funding for their internship programs, also known as industrial attachment.
The industrial attachment is normally undertaken by finalists as one of the requirements for the awarding of a bachelors degree at the institute.
The change means that the students will have to dig into their own pockets.
KIST used to give students Rwf 2000 per day as facilitation for the internship which is supposed to be conducted for a period of more than a month. The institute says that the change came as a result of the recent budget cut to public institutions of higher learning.
In the 2010/11 budget, the Minister of Finance announced that the funds allocated to Public Institutions of Higher Learning would be reduced by 25 percent and the funds were injected into lower education.
The move has led to public institutions devising ways on how to finance and reduce on their regular expenses.
According to the affected students who spoke to The New Times, the changes took them by surprise.
“We were not informed earlier so that we could plan accordingly,” said one student who preferred anonymity. He added that the management should select other items on which to implement the cut since lack of internship financing will affect a big number of students.
When The New Times contacted Laurent Rangira, the Guild President of KIST, he said that they had tried to discuss the issue with the administration but there was no hope that they would change their stand.
“We argued that they either reduce the funding to Rwf 1, 000 a day or allow the students to graduate without undertaking industrial attachment; but they have rejected all our pleas,” said Rangira.
In a phone interview, the Rector of KIST, Prof. Abraham Ogwu, said that they had been forced to stop financing internships due to lack of funds.
“Initially, it was a subsidy and an act of kindness by the institution towards students. It is not a contractual obligation. So we request the students to try and sponsor themselves,” said Ogwu, adding that there are other more important obligations like paying electricity and water that the institution cannot do without.
Concerning the skipping of the industrial attachment, Ogwu said that the institution cannot allow it because it teaches practical courses which need a hands-on approach.
Students, especially those who were posted for their internship upcountry, are likely to be the most affected by this move.
The said budget cut has tremendously affected public institutions of higher learning that have largely been depending on government support leading to various changes, including laying off of some workers.