A total of 71 girls are set to join institutions of higher learning to study science and technology under the Equal Opportunity Programme.
The project is coordinated by the Ministry of Education and funded by the African Development Bank (ADB). It targets to enroll a total of 200 girls in tertiary institutions.
This is the second group of beneficiaries under this project. The first intake was made up of 120 girls presently in various universities.
According to the acting project coordinator, Alexandre Ndahumba, the goal is to improve science and technology and industrial skills base by building female students’ capacity to join institutions of higher learning.
The girls selected are normally those who did not obtain the set pass mark in sciences. They instead undergo a six month training program in science subjects after which they are examined for university studies.
In an interview with The New Times, Gender Project Specialist, Winnie Muhumuza, said that the training helps the girls develop the confidence needed to enroll in the science subjects.
“We have a problem of girls who fear joining science faculties saying they are difficult. But when they undergo this training, they develop the confidence to enroll because the curriculum is tailored to their needs,” said Muhumuza. She added that experience has shown that the trained girls compete favourably at universities.
Ndahumba says that the program was designed to promote gender equity at the higher educational level. It re-enforces Rwanda’s Vision 2020 and will help towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
“The program basically aims at helping raise the participation of women in science and technology fields which is weak at the level of higher education,” Ndahumba reiterated.
Statistics from the Ministy of Education show that women studying agriculture were 19 percent and those studying science and technology 16 percent at NUR in 2005. In 2008, the overall enrolment stood at 13.9 percent.
The trend shows that the number of girls tends to drop from primary up to tertiary institutions. Girls’ enrolment at secondary level is presently set at 47.8 percent.
Further disparities can be observed at the tertiary level where only about 35 percent of girls achieve the requisite grades to qualify for government places in higher institutions of learning while the number of girls taking sciences in higher education remains low.
A student at the Kicukiro College of Technology, Clementine Mukeshimana, revealed that had it not been for the project, her education dream would have been blown apart.
“I had already spent a year sitting at home because my parents could not raise my tuition. But I am now assured of finishing my studies,” said Mukeshimana, a civil engineering student.
She called upon girls not to despise themselves and study sciences because she believes they have all it takes to perform like their brothers, and even better.
Another beneficiary, Germaine Uwera, who is currently undergoing the training, says she is content she is capable of joining a faculty of her choice. She thanked the government for implementing various programs to elevate girls.