The government, through Rwanda Education Board, annually selects, from the candidates of the previous year, those who can benefit from its scholarship programme to join public universities. This programme, however, caters for a small number of the candidates, estimated at 20 per cent.
Anxiety is always rife among former secondary school students following the release of examination results. Most are wondering whether they will make the cut to join university and other institutions of higher education.
The government, through Rwanda Education Board, annually selects, from the candidates of the previous year, those who can benefit from its scholarship programme to join public universities.
This programme, however, caters for a small number of the candidates, estimated at 20 per cent – and the rest are left with the option of paying for their education through university.
Because this option is quite expensive, many are left out.
A few years ago, secondary leavers argue, it was easier for one to get a job to enable them finance their tuition through university. But this is no longer possible since even graduates struggle to find employment after school.
“I completed secondary school six years ago and got a teaching job where I was dismissed a year later simply because I was not qualified. They wanted a university graduate and I have been unemployed since then,” said Obed Sinamenye, a resident of Gatsata sector, Gasabo district.
Sinamenye, who studied languages in high school, said there is need for government to provide trainings on job creation for secondary school leavers or finance them to start business.
He added that students offering options such as arts and humanities should be limited as they have less opportunities in terms of employment.
“Even during the selection of beneficiaries for the government scholarship, those who studied sciences are given top priority,” he said.
That is why Kizito Nsengiyumva, who after completing secondary school a few years ago, enrolled for a three month course in hospitality organised by the Workforce Development Authority (WDA). Now he has a temporary job that he hopes will help him finance further studies.
He advised his colleagues who are not sure of joining university to do the same.
Officials from WDA say such students can attend short courses to equip them with hands-on skills that may help them get a job to be able to pay for their tuition.
“If someone completed Senior Six in mainstream education and they want to join us, we welcome them and offer them technical training. There are even those who completed university who have embraced such programmes,” Jerome Gasana, the Director General of WDA said.
He said that those with potential projects get support from incubation centres after they submit their project proposals. “We are now working on extension of our buildings and centres so as to accommodate as many students, because the number has increased,” he added.
The trainings offered include short-courses in the hospitality, hairdressing, tailoring, carpentry and welding among others.
Irrelevance of courses
Education minister Vincent Biruta recently said not every high school graduate should join university after completing secondary schools.
“Some of them get employed at this level, others join technical schools,” said Biruta adding that this is the reason government is prioritising vocational education over the conventional education.
He said, however, that the government is looking for ways to increase the number of students in public universities. He also challenges students, while still in high school, to decide carefully what to study instead of undertaking courses that will not help them after completing their education.
This same predicament applies to university graduates who upon graduation, either are uninterested in pursuing a career in what they studied, or find it hard to get a job in that particular field depending on what they studied.
“If someone is to join university, they should first think of what they are going to study and its applicability upon graduation. This is why we encourage them to join technical schools and pursue studies such as engineering among others,” Biruta said.
But students – especially those under the government scholarship – say that before they join universities, they are oriented and allocated faculties and departments by the government and they often times have no option to change.
Prof. George K. Njoroge, the rector of KIE, said that education should not only be about graduating, but having hands on skills and encouraged Rwandan universities to embrace studies which can help students get hands on experience.
Some head teachers also advised that some options be reduced at secondary level and included in the university curricula. “I think it is not realistic to have students offering options like history, economics and geography at secondary level, getting government scholarship requires maximum points, which is not possible for all students.
“The same to accountancy in secondary level, you cannot get a job in a bank while we still have a good number of university graduates in the same field who are jobless,” he added.
Other people urge that there are other alternatives to university education that’s to say teachers training colleges, agricultural schools, and computer training firms, technical institutes, and community polytechnics, electronic workshops, mechanical workshops and carpentry among others.
The government of Rwanda has a programme to improve technical and vocation training and education to the extent that by 2017, 60 percent of students will be studying in the same schools.