Govt reviews student-grants scheme

The Ministry of Education has revised bursaries for government sponsored students in public universities and other tertiary institutions effective next academic year (2013/2014).
Dr Biruta (R) together with State Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, Dr Mathias Harebamungu during yesterday’s news briefing.   The New Times /Timothy Kisambira.
Dr Biruta (R) together with State Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, Dr Mathias Harebamungu during yesterday’s news briefing. The New Times /Timothy Kisambira.

The Ministry of Education has revised bursaries for government sponsored students in public universities and other tertiary institutions effective next academic year (2013/2014).

The Minister of Education Dr Vincent Biruta announced the changes in the government’s funding arrangements for government sponsorship at a news briefing in Kigali yesterday.

“There will be no grants component, and thus all funds paid out by government for students’ tertiary education will be fully recoverable,” says a government paper dubbed Securing a Sustainable Future for Tertiary Education, presented at the news briefing.

The ministry stressed that 100 per cent of total tuition and living allowances that the government pays for poor students will be a “loan fully repayable” by the loan beneficiary and will be channelled through a bank.

The Presidential Scholarships programme will, however, remain but for only outstanding students pursuing courses in priority areas – those that have impact on the economic development of the country.

Under the current government loan scheme for the students, only 25 per cent and 50 per cent of the funds was a loan portion repayable for sciences and non-science students respectively. The rest of the money was a grant.

Education officials explained that the move was taken to enable more students to benefit from students’ loan scheme.

Previously, for science students, government pays Rwf1.25m per year while for non-sciences, Rwf950,000 is paid as student unit cost- paid directly to tertiary education institutions.

 But under the new arrangement uniform student unit cost of Rwf830,000 will be paid.

The average amount spent by government under the old scheme is Rwf26bn for 7154 students.

Under the new scheme, Rwf16.5bn would be spent on an average of 12,684 students annually, highlighting a reduction in government expenditure.

In addition to increasing the number of beneficiaries, under the new scheme, the government would save close to Rwf 10 billion, which will be channelled to infrastructure development as well as equipping of educational institutions so as to help improve the quality of students.

According to the statistics, only 17 per cent of loan beneficiaries have paid back from 1980-2012. But government projects that 80 per cent of loan beneficiaries will pay back by 2022/23. The grants scheme is expected to be self-sustaining by 2023.

The government has also changed the selection criteria of students to access the loans, fully cancelling eligibility for tuition fees loans for students in category 5 and 6 of poverty level barometer Ubudehe and scrapping eligibility for living allowance loans for all the students except the poorest in category 1 and 2 of Ubudehe.

While the current scheme provided loans to cover tuition fees for all students regardless of the level of financial need, the new changes mean that students who are from well-to-do families or have alternative access to finance, will fully cover the costs of their university education.

The grading of well-off students was based on various factors including ownership of cattle, big chunks of land, lives in decent houses, have money on bank accounts, received bank loans, ownership of houses and cars, or have good jobs.

Mineduc officials said the changes will take effect starting with the next academic year 2013/2014.

 One varsity scheme

Meanwhile, the minister shed light on the operation of the one university scheme, announcing that students joining public universities this academic year will be admitted under one single and stronger university called The University of Rwanda in September. Mineduc officials announced the university will be officially launched in the 2013/2014 academic year in September.

The launch will be a significant breakthrough for the process to put together the institutions which will be followed by two years of “comprehensive integration process” for the combined institutions to get used to the changes.

“We would like to update you on the process and explain how it will work,” Dr. Vincent Biruta, told reporters gathered at his office in Kacyiru, explaining that “all the changes need to be communicated” and urging the journalists to explain every step of the process to Rwandans.

The minister reiterated that running state-owned higher institutions of learning in Rwanda under one institution will help improve the quality of education because they will combine their resources and will be branded as one “world-class” higher learning Rwandan institution.

A work plan presented by Dr. Papias Musafiri, Acting Rector of the Kigali-based School of Finance and Banking (SFB) and a member of the task force to fast track the establishment of University of Rwanda, detailed a plan of action to be undertaken for the university to be operational in the next five months.

The actions include the development of a mission statement for the university, principles and values, refining the university’s legal framework, defining operational and academic procedures, integrating human resources, establishing the university’s information management system, and developing the institution’s budget for the academic year 2013/2014 and longer-term strategic plans.

But the actual existence of The University of Rwanda will be a process since all the institutions to be merged will have to be integrated into the single system, experts in charge of the process have constantly explained.

“It’s a process, it’s not a one-time event,” Dr. Musafiri said amidst perceptions that the single university plan seems a little too ambitious.

He disclosed that the task force to fast track the establishment of the university has proposed that the university include six specialised colleges—Agriculture and Veterinary science, Medicine and Health Sciences, Education and Open and Distance Learning, Business and Economics, Science and Technology, and Arts and Social Sciences—which will in turn be comprised of eighteen specialised schools.

The taskforce will decide where each of the colleges will be located in the next few months along with other actions to be undertaken to have the university up-and-running, Dr. Musafiri said.

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