KIGALI - President Paul Kagame, yesterday, said that the decision by the government to phase out the Rwf 25,000 monthly welfare allowance, which was paid to university students, was “timely and well-thought out,” and was informed by consideration of priorities in the education sector.
Addressing a combined gathering of Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) and Kigali Health Institute (KHI) students at KIST Grounds, President Kagame said that the government was aware of the difficulties some of the students faced, but noted that the decision will not be reversed.
The decision to scrap the monthly allowance, taken last year, drew a lot of debate with most students suggesting that they will not be able to meet their welfare expenses.
President Kagame, however, pointed out that the neediest students will get financial support. He added that the decision was taken after realising that there were more pressing priorities in the education sector.
“The government is aware of hardships faced by some students because of limited financial resources to pay for living and other expenses,” Kagame said.
“We have chosen a cost sharing system where the government pays for tuition while parents or guardians who have the means contribute towards subsistence costs. However, the government will continue to help those students who are in critical need of support.”
The President explained that the country has more needs compared to the resources available and it is on this basis that the government has to prioritise by allocating the few available resources to the most urgent sectors, like infrastructure.
“We must rationalise and try to get the maximum out of the few resources we have. A while ago, somebody from KHI was telling us how they are in very bad shape in terms of infrastructure,” Kagame said.
“What he was telling us politely was ‘give us more money, give us the infrastructure.”
He pointed out that the Rwf 25,000 which people have been complaining about, when added up, amounts to over Rwf 5 billion and that this money has not been taken away from the education budget.
“That money is going to be used to fill gaps elsewhere in those areas that are priority or very important in the education of our children, fairly and equitably,” Kagame said.
The President emphasized that the government never scrapped the fund for the sake of it, or to bring misery to the students.
“I have no apologies to make to anyone about that decision. However, I still have another responsibility and that is making sure that the process of identifying those needy students is actually carried out properly,” he said.
The President cautioned against including students from well-to-do families among those in need of support.
President Kagame noted that given the means, the government would be happy to maintain the allowance, but when resources are limited, such tough decisions have to be taken.
The President also said that he was aware that lecturers are not happy with their remuneration, but the government is addressing the issue, to ensure that their salaries are sufficiently increased.
Earlier in the day the President inaugurated a State-of-the-art Laboratory complex worth Rwf 5bn at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST).
The new 5-storey complex known as KIST4 has fully equipped laboratories to facilitate studies in biology and physical sciences.
President Kagame also toured Kigali Health Institute (KHI).
The Head of State took questions from the students and addressed the issues raised.
He advised the students to be more innovative and creative and learn how to become job creators. The President called on the students to find employment during their free time, and this way they can earn more than the Rwf 25,000.