HUYE — Preparations for the first ever regional conference on students’ welfare are in high gear at the National University of Rwanda (NUR).
The conference organised by NUR is slated for December 1-3. It is expected to attract over 50 universities from the region.
Fifteen people have already submitted papers to be presented during the conference.
The conference with a theme, ’Butare 2008 Regional Conference on Students’ Welfare’ is seeking among other things to analyse the current situation of students’ welfare in various regional universities.
It will also find out roles of different stake holders in the improvement of students’ welfare and to determine the specific role of the students in the improvement of their welfare.
According to Jean Ntazinda, the event’s coordinator, the problem of students’ welfare is a burning issue that needs to be discussed at regional level so as to learn from experiences of other universities in addressing the issue.
“Universities in the region virtually face the same problems but have different ways of solving them. That is why we need to come together and learn from one another,” said Ntazinda.
He added, “Government has played a key role in financing students in public universities but students still remain in dire need of more financial support.
This conference will attempt to find ways on how students can supplement government support to sustain themselves.”
The idea of the conference was motivated by a survey on students’ welfare conducted last year by Jean Ntazinda, who was then a commissioner in the students guild.
According to Ntazinda, the survey conducted on a sample of 300 students indicated that many students were forfeiting some meals in order to save some money to meet basic expenses like buying soap, toothpaste and photocopying class notes.
“Results of the survey indicated 70 percent of the respondents never took breakfast while 40 percent forfeited dinner so as to save money for other expenses,” said Ntazinda, adding that forfeiting some meals was the only way to fit in the official living allowance of Frw25,000 per month provided by government in form of a student loan.
Ntazinda said that the survey came up with a number of recommendations among which universities were asked to where possible employ students in carrying out tasks related to their fields of study like computer maintenance for ICT students, electrical installations and repairs by applied science students.
Faculties can also work with government institutions by offering services at a fee like health mobilisation campaigns which can be conducted by medical students.
The survey also recommended that students manage their bursary well because some students were fond of over drinking whenever they receive bursary money only to starve for the rest of the month.
The conference will also tackle drug use in regional universities, the problem of HIV/AIDS and academic problems faced by students.
“We have cases of students using drugs on campus. This adversely affects their learning and causes insecurity. HIV/AIDS is a global phenomenon and the university has not been spared. We will share experiences on how we can face these challenges as students,” said Ntazinda.