Varsities: The era of enterprise begins

Slowly but steadily, decentralisation is taking root in the country, in many more ways than just the generally known local government programmes and development activities. The latest entry into the decentralisation fold is in the education sector, specifically in institutions of higher learning.

Slowly but steadily, decentralisation is taking root in the country, in many more ways than just the generally known local government programmes and development activities. The latest entry into the decentralisation fold is in the education sector, specifically in institutions of higher learning.

The news from out there, delivered by State Minister for Primary and Secondary Education Théoneste Mutsindashyaka, is that such institutions have been granted the right to determine the salary scales of their staff.

Having fixed salary levels before, universities and tertiary institutions are now free to decide the take home packages of their employees depending on their capacity to pay.

There is no doubt that since restrictions have been removed, these institutions will have the sky for the limit, as they think up grand but practical skills of earning revenue enough to sustain their operations. Being producers, not just consumers, is attractive.

It is true that salaries of academic staff, ranging between Frw200,000 and Frw500,000 for senior lecturers, were not competitive enough to attract enough qualified manpower to the institutions.

It is understandable as the country rebuilds from scratch, but ultimately untenable. And that is why it is necessary to commend this government for its insight, and the realisation that making higher institutions of learning self accounting is a tool of making them more enterprising and self-sustaining in the long run.

Now is the time for Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, for example, to market many of its poverty eradication programmes and inventions, in order to make money. It can enter bids for tenders, and anything that can raise revenue.

That is not to say, though, that it should become so money hungry as to forget its primary role of getting us out of poverty through technological inventions that cut down on time and expense.

Enterprise also has its own limits in terms of managing the resources; there is always the danger of getting derailed from imparting knowledge to young fresh minds, which is the reason the institutions are, to running after every profitable venture that will line their coffers - and pockets. But on the whole the programme is laudable and we hope it is well managed.

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