What does the future hold for private candidates?

The recent senior six candidates’ results came out showing the superb performance of faith-based schools. But on the flip side, 574 candidates’ results were withheld. The Ministry of Education also announced the temporary closure of the ‘Candidat libre’ facility. Would the closure be due to the facility’s abuse that eventually led to the withholding of the results? Education Times’ Ben Gasore asks
Education State Minister Mathias Harebamungu. Education Times/John Mbanda.
Education State Minister Mathias Harebamungu. Education Times/John Mbanda.

The recent senior six candidates’ results came out showing the superb performance of faith-based schools. But on the flip side, 574 candidates’ results were withheld. The Ministry of Education also announced the temporary closure of the ‘Candidat libre’ facility. Would the closure be due to the facility’s abuse that eventually led to the withholding of the results? Education Times’ Ben Gasore asks

CANDIDAT LIBRE IS a programme that allows students who are not attending regular schools to register and prepare to sit for national examinations at the same time with those in ordinary schools. It is more commonly known by this French name, which loosely translates to ‘private candidates.’

“The prime reason why candidat libre was created was to enable those who had not had the chance of going to or finishing school to do so,” said Felix Ruhinda, a pastor who sat for his senior six examinations two years ago under the above programme.

Ruhinda, 42, had managed to finish his ordinary level education in the early 90s and joined the country’s liberation struggle. It was only in 2010 that he decided to finish his secondary education and the candidat libre facility was the only way he would do it while continuing with his daily work schedule at the same time.

He managed to score 22 points out of the attainable 55 points in the History, Economics and Divinity subject combination that he was pursuing. The score represents a mediocre pass. Many students like Ruhinda find sitting for national exams as private candidates the way to go.

Private candidates schools that are common in Kigali include Club Spik, located at Saint Famille Church; Kigali Catering School, also at Saint Famille; and Kigali Leading School in Remera. Each year, private candidates are usually not allocated examination centres, prompting owners of formal schools to affiliate them.

Emmanuel Muvunyi, the deputy director general in charge of examinations at Rwanda Education Board (REB), announced while releasing this year’s senior six results that the schools whose candidates’ results had been withheld were from Groupe Scolaire APERWA in Gasabo, Kabuga High School, Solidarity Academy in Nyarugenge, Nyamata High School in Bugesera, College de Bethel in Ruhango district, Gabiro High School in Gatsibo, ESSA Nyarugunga in Kicukiro, Ecole Secondaire de Nyarubuye,  APED Ngenda in Bugesera district and Ecole Secondaire Kidaho.

It is alleged that private candidates had to pay Rwf15,000 to these schools in order to be registered. “If it wasn’t for the closure I would have paid under the normal procedures which involve paying and sitting in the centres set up by Rwanda Examinations Board (REB),” said Amani Ikomezekudufasha, a private candidate in Kigali.

Lucky Rwigamba, a first year student at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), views the suspension of the facility as a decision that will affect many students who saw it as their only window of hope. He sat for his Senior Six exams in 2011 as well and scored 43 points out of the maximum 55 in the Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics combination.

“In my whole life, I had been schooling from Uganda but when I was in Senior Six in Namilyango College I terribly fell sick and could not sit for the national exams in Uganda that year (2010). So, when I got well I came back home (Rwanda) and applied to sit for that year’s national exams as a private candidate,” Rwigamba narrates.

Many like Lucky have had several reasons to sit as private candidates but some of the reasons may not be as positive. Education pioneers, too, today see the private candidate facility being abused in quite a number of ways.

Apart from the cheating of national exams which is becoming a norm, some students today have resorted to sitting as private candidates in cases where they have been expelled, are pregnant, are drug users, have misused their school fees, want to use mobile phones and other devices that are illegal in most schools or when they want to forge their academic report cards.

The suspension of the private candidates’ window is likely to see a reduction of the numbers that were being fed in from the ordinary school system and this seems to be one of the reasons behind the suspension itself. It appears that the education ministry is trying to curb the abuse of the window.

“These are not private candidates schools. A school has norms and standards, and they follow the law. There is also a law governing nursery, primary and secondary schools, but these (private candidate schools) don’t have any requirements,” said the State Minister in charge of Primary and Secondary Education, Mathias Harebamungu.

Harebamungu believes that the centres for private candidates have to first fulfill the requirements in order to be up and running once more.

“We have temporally ordered them to stop and meet Rwanda Education Board officials to discuss how they can have all the requirements otherwise they can hurt the quality of education as they hardly follow the curricula and their teaching period is limited,” he said.

“I personally know of a case of a student who jumped senior 5 directly to senior 6 as a private candidate and I wondered what the point of secondary education was after all. I think the issue is the policy. Let the Ministry of Education create a clear policy/law on this and stop this and other loopholes affecting our students,” said Godfrey Manzi, a concerned parent.

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