Government has directed districts to look into complaints of university students who claim that they were denied government sponsorship after being wrongly categorised under the Ubudehe classification programme.
The Ministry of Education in March revised bursaries for government sponsored students in public universities and other tertiary institutions effective this academic year (2013/2014).
The government is now giving bursaries and monthly upkeep allowances only to students whose families are in category 1 and 2 of Ubudehe, which includes the poorest of society.
Students whose families are in categories 3 and 4 have to pay half tuition fees and meet their monthly upkeep while those in category 5 and 6 foot all their tuition and monthly upkeep.
But lately the categorisation has attracted criticism. Over 6,000 complaints were filed by students from categories that have to pay half tuition of Rwf 300,000 per annum or the full amount Rwf600,000 per annum.
They argue that Ubudehe categorisation does not reflect their family financial ability.
The New Times understands that the directive to review students’ complaints follows a recent meeting of officials from ministries of cabinet affairs, education and local government as well as local leaders which realised that there were many students’ claims that merit attention.
A communiqué from the ministries of Education and Local Government released on Monday says that a taskforce has been put in place at district level to examine the complaints and ensure fairness in the process.
The taskforce is made up of vice mayors for social affairs, district education officers, officials in charge of good governance and security officers.
It will not change the categorisation of particular students but will review financial capacity of the complainants.
The team is supposed to file a report to the Ministry of Education within 10 days from September 11.
To be considered by the taskforce include orphans whose parents left no property, orphans who were put in the category of a foster family, or those belonging to a family with financial difficulties.
Alphonse Dusengiyumva, a student of Kigali Institute of Education, said he requested for a review of his case because his mother cannot afford to meet his tuition and that of his three brothers.
Dusengimana, from Nyagatare District lost his father in 2008. “My family has only half a hectare of land with not even a single cow. We are basically poor” he said.
Another KIE student, Solange Mukaneza, from Muhanga District welcomed the review, saying district officials had not paid attention to her pleas.
At KIE, out of more than 700 expected fresh students, 100 have not registered a week after the academic year opened reportedly due to the sponsorship issues.
For the continuing students who started on September 9, only 1,300 have registered just one third of 3310 students.
University officials said it was unusual to have more than a half of the students not registered, five days before registration deadline, which is September 15.
But officials at the Ministry of Education said in other universities like Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) and School of Finance and Banking (SFB) student registration has reached over 92 per cent and tuition payment is being done without any hindrance.
This, however, was not verified by press time.
Most of the students and parents argue the under Ubudehe categories, the Ministry of Education is basing on to decide whether one needs sponsoership or not do not reflect the true financial capacity of families.
Emilienne Niwemugeni, the vice mayor in charge of social affairs in Rulindo District, admitted some students have genuine complaints.
In Rulindo, out of around 700 students who were being sponsored by government 501 have filed complaints claiming they were wrongly categorised.
“While compiling Ubudehe categories in 2011, capacity to pay university tuition was not considered, the Ministry of Education should make separate categorisation creteria for education”, Niwemugeni said.
Education minister speaks out
Education minister Vincent Biruta, yesterday insisted that the move was taken to enable more students to benefit from students’ loan scheme.
Previously, for science students, government paid Rwf1.25m per year while for non-sciences, Rwf950,000 was paid as student unit cost-, directly to tertiary institutions.
But under the new arrangement uniform student unit cost of Rwf830,000 will be paid.
The government spent about Rwf26bn for 7,154 students under the old scheme.
Under the new scheme, Rwf16.5bn would be spent on an average of 12,684 students annually, representing a reduction in government expenditure.
According to the minister, in addition to increasing the number of beneficiaries, under the new scheme, the government would save close to Rwf10 billion, which will be channelled to infrastructure development as well as equipping tertiary institutions so as to help improve the quality of graduates.
Statistics indicate that 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.
“Parents should take care of the tertiary education of their children and allow government to cater for basic education. Education cannot be left to government alone,” the minister said.