Unilak is first test for new Education minister Gahakwa

KIGALI - Dr Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya has survived facing a charged session of senators, thanks to Friday’s cabinet reshuffle that switched her from the Ministry of Education to the one of Gender.
Dr Gahakwa (left) and Dr Mujawamariya.
Dr Gahakwa (left) and Dr Mujawamariya.

KIGALI - Dr Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya has survived facing a charged session of senators, thanks to Friday’s cabinet reshuffle that switched her from the Ministry of Education to the one of Gender.

The reshuffle came just hours after senators resolved to summon her to answer questions related to the status of Universite Laique Adventiste de Kigali (Unilak), a city-based private university that has no accreditation despite its ten years of existence.
The decision to summon Mujawamariya came after Senator Agnès Kayijire, the chairperson of the senatorial standing committee on social affairs, gave a presentation to the House plenary about the problems facing Unilak and its former students.
The legislators demanded swift action by the line ministry.

Now it  will be Mujawamariya’s successor, Daphrosa Gahakwa, formerly state minister for Agriculture, to face the Upper Chamber of Parliament. A date for her appearance had not been set by press time.

Mujawamariya last year narrowly survived a vote-of-no-confidence in the Chamber of Deputies over alarming cases of genocide ideology in secondary schools. Until her reshuffle, deputies were not satisfied by her explanations.

Started in 1997, Unilak has been struggling to get accreditation by the Ministry of Education for the last 10 years in vain.

Mujawamariya, who was appointed the Minister of Gender and Family Promotion on Friday, had on several occasions said Unilak is an incompetent university that cannot award degrees.

The National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) had in the past warned that universities that would be lacking the required necessities will not be licensed.

Close to 5103 Unilak students are trapped in a longstanding wrangle between the private university and the ministry which has hitherto denied granting a license to the institution.

Over 475 students who completed their academic courses in law and management between 2003 and 2007 at Unilak are frustrated after failing to get their academic transcripts because the university is not legally recongnised.

However, student population at Unilak continues to rise, with this year alone about 1207 students having enrolled.

“The future of our children who study at Unilak seems bleak and depressing; they cannot get employment in any institution even though they have passed job interviews,” Senator Odette Nyiramirimo stressed.

 “I am very disappointed because employers have tossed these students up and down for so many years,” Nyiramirimo complained.

She added that Unilak students are victims of circumstances saying they must be helped to get equal opportunities like their counterparts in other universities.

“Government should take immediate action to ensure that this university is accredited as soon as possible,” Antoine Mugesera said.

During her presentation, Kayijire said that Mujawamariya had admitted that there was a delay in the consideration of Unilak for accreditation.

The cabinet meeting that was held on January 18 resolved that Unilak be granted a provisional license of one year to fulfill all the required standards by NCHE but the problem is still unsolved.

Instead on January 22, Mujawamariya wrote to Unilak giving them a deadline of January 31 to have completed all the requirements or be closed down.

But Senator Joseph Karemera described the threats as a denial of students’ right to education which must end if the country was to achieve its education objectives.
Mugesera explained that Unilak problems are more political and no longer a technical issue which must be resolved to save the private education sector.

Institutions such as Rwanda Revenue Authority (RRA) and Social Security Fund of Rwanda (SFFR) had reportedly rejected students from Unilak, the report indicates.
In one case, for instance, employees of RRA who had studied from Unilak are not remunerated as their counterparts from other universities with whom they work in same capacities.

By the time of the senate’s visit to the university at least some of the formalities that require an institution of higher learning to operate had been acquired.

“All those suffering on the streets are our children. They cannot get jobs before they are given academic transcripts,” Senator Rwigamba Balinda, who represents private universities in the senate, said.  The ministry has since been insisting that Unilak cannot be allowed to award degrees because it still lacks capacity to provide quality education as required by the government.

Despite the row over accreditation, the number of students joining Unilak continues to nurture.
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