KIGALI - The new Minister of Education, Dr Daphrose Gahakwa, has said there were omissions in the way the problem of the embattled Universite Laique Adventiste de Kigali (UNILAK) was handled.
Gahakwa was yesterday appearing before the Senate to explain the predicament of the university which has not been given an Indefinite Operating License ten years after its inception.
“There was lack of cooperation between the Government and the Unilak management to seek a solution to this problem and my predecessors in the ministry apologised to that effect,” Gahakwa told Senators.
She however said that top on the agenda was to ensure that students who have already completed their studies graduate. She said the ministry will appoint a team of experts to set examinations for the students in question before graduation, a suggestion that many Senators opposed.
“That is unfair to these students who have already suffered enough…what is the purpose of new exams when they are going to be examined where they are going to seek employment?” questioned Speciose Ayinkamiye.
The minister said that the planned examinations will serve to revive the confidence to future employers of these students because of the bad publicity the institution has been subjected.
“Tomorrow, we might decide to confer these students, however that would be a political solution not a technical one. They have to sit for the exams if they are to compete favourably on the labour market,” Gahakwa, who in the recent cabinet reshuffle replaced Dr Jean d’Arc Mujawamariya, said.
Since 2003, up to 473 students have completed their studies at Unilak but have not graduated because of the controversy surrounding the vetting of the university.
Gahakwa said that it is proposed that students who will fail the new examinations would be given diplomas instead of degrees.
The Government earlier this year gave Unilak up to the end of 2008 to have fulfilled all the necessary requirements set by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) so that they can be given an operating license.
However, Senators said that these regulations are illegal since a Presidential Decree establishing them was yet to be promulgated.
“These standards are illegal because they have not been approved…they are not binding at all,” said Rwigamba Balinda, who represents private tertiary institutions in the Senate.
Gahakwa reacted saying the standards have to be there if quality has to be maintained in institutions of higher learning.
“What is illegal is enforcing punishments and we have not done this,” she said adding that the standards would not apply to Unilak only.
However some Senators disagreed, saying that those standards were difficult to asses since these days some students enrol by correspondence. Gahakwa informed the Senators that Unilak would not be closed as it had earlier been alleged.
“I want to put it on record that there are no intentions by the Ministry to close down this university, and in any case, there has been a significant improvement in the quality of services it offers,” said Gahakwa who, prior to her appointment to the ministry, was the Minister of State for Agriculture.
The controversy started way back in 2003 when a team of experts said the Kigali-based Adventist university had no capacity to award degrees.
The same team, which also included experts from the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), also recommended that the medical school which was run by the university be closed.