Over 90 students in the department of Pharmacy at the National University of Rwanda (NUR) have petitioned university authorities to allow them graduate this month, after it emerged that they are required to study an additional year on top of the initial four years.
The students came to learn of their fate just a few months to the next graduation, which is scheduled for January 27.
The Huye-based varsity argued that it was financially constrained to facilitate internship for all students, thereby requiring students to study an extra year.
According to representatives of the affected students, who preferred anonymity, the decision came as a surprise as they had completed all the processes and procedures to graduate only to be met by the “bad news”.
“When the university introduced the modular system, it meant that two intakes had to graduate at the same time. We, from the second intake, are the ones facing the problem,”
“We completed the four years, passed all papers and did our research only to be told that we will not graduate. We will be required to study another one year and this was not part of the curricula,” the students said
The students argue that the university failure to get financial resources to facilitate their internship should not affect their graduation because they can do the internship after graduation.
The ministries of Education and Health met last year to discuss the issue during which it was decided that the students should study an extra year before they graduate. A commission to handle the issue was also set up.
“What we don’t understand is how the decision was reached. They set up a commission but before they could conclude work, they came up with the decision. We are the victims here. Even the way they communicated it to us was not clear”.
“We also think the money can be found. Even then, not all of us want to practice. There are some people who would wish to continue for Masters programme immediately yet an extra year is going to delay us,” one of them complained.
However, in an interview with The New Times, NUR Rector, Prof. Silas Lwakabamba downplayed the students’ concerns, noting that the decision is to their own benefit.
Prof. Lwakabamba said that the decision was taken in light of harmonisation with the East African Community (EAC), noting that the 5th year will be for them to practice and get approval, and the only option was to retain them at the university.
“Yes, they can graduate, but they will never be recognised. They can never work anywhere. If they don’t do this internship, they can never come out as professional pharmacists,” he said.
“We are saying: in order for them to get funding, be supervised and recognised formally as professional pharmacists, they need to study an extra one year which is part of the academic programme”.
He noted that the decision is part of the adjustments the country is making to fit into the East African Community (EAC) and should be seen in good light.
Lwakabamba said that the students ought to understand that it will be for their own benefit and will give them an opportunity to operate across the region and beyond.
In an interview with The New Times, Prof. Geoffrey Rugege, the Executive Director of the High Council of Education, said the decision will not only affect pharmacy students, but also medical students.
He also emphasised that it would give the students proper practical experience before they are left to go out to practice and it’s built on the need for quality graduates.
“They need to have a licence to practice after their Bachelors degree. To have the licence, they need to do practicals,” Rugege said
“The only way to do it was to keep them at the university so that government can finance them. They can only be financed while still at university. After that they can work in EAC, DR Congo or anywhere they want. One year is not very long,” he added.
He added that once they leave the university, the students won’t be able to access SFAR loans for internship.
Last month, students pursuing a Master’s programme in Agroforestry and Soil Management in the Faculty of Agriculture at NUR, also petitioned the Rector for failing to feature on the graduation list the second year running.