Several private schools across the country say they are struggling to remain in business because parents nowadays prefer to enrol their children in 12 year Basic Education schools.
One of the affected schools is Ecole Secondaire de Musange (Esecomu), a once thriving school in Nyamagabe District, Southern Province.
The twenty-year-old private school that once boasted over 800 students closed its doors last year, due to lack of enough students.
Fidele Azarugarura, the former school director, said the dwindling numbers of students compelled him to close down the school.
“When I was employed last year, there were only four students. I worked hard and the number increased to 100 but again 60 students left, leaving us with only 40.”
The Association des Eglises Baptiste au Rwanda (AEBR) which owns the school, then decided to close it this year, rendering 13 teachers jobless.
The 40 students that were remaining were transferred to other AEBR’s schools across the country.
The New Times understands that several other private schools are affected. They include Ecole Secondaire des Parents de Nyanza (Espanya), and Ecole Secondaire de Maheresho (Nyamagabe) among others.
In 2007, the government introduced the basic education system, which spans from Primary One to Senior Six.
These schools are practically accessed by everyone.
Most of the classrooms were constructed with public involvement, especially during the monthly Umuganda exercise.
The government went on to avail teachers to the 12YBE schools countrywide.
Now parents prefer to send their children to these government schools, to avoid high education cost in the private schools.
“Our schools entirely depend on students and since the numbers are dwindling, our future looks bleak,” said Virginie Mukamugema, the director of GS ACEPER Gikongoro, Nyamagabe.
With four sections of upper secondary school last year, ACEPER had over 300 students, only to remain with ahalf that number this academic year. Consequently, one of the sections closed, leaving only three that are also struggling due to lack of new enrolments.
School owners, staff affected
The decrease in the number of students has consequences. There are, for example, cases of teachers who drag their schools to court over salaries.
Last month, this paper reported a case involving Mweya Secondary School, a private school in Rubavu District which was taken to court by six teachers for failure to pay their salaries. The school lost the case and had to pay salary arrears amounting to Rwf15m.
In another incident, Charlotte Uwitonze, an employee of the dissolved Esecomu won a Rwf800,000 salary arrears case last year.
In some instances the schools fail to remit social security contributions, taxes, and to service bank loans.
Looking at Mineduc as savior
Jean Marie Vianney Usengumuremyi, the president of the association of private schools, said two months ago they presented their concerns to the ministry, which later commissioned a team to look into the issue.
“We request the government to support us by paying salaries to staff,” Usengumuremyi said.
Janvier Gasana, the deputy director general in charge of quality and standards at Reb, told this paper this week, that the private schools complained that they are losing students to the 12YBE programme.
Gasana added: “We are looking into their concerns and we will soon file a report.”
Usengumuremyi said that so far, the commission had visited Gakoni High school in Gatsibo District and Ecole Secondaire Remera-Mbogo in Rulindo District.
Commenting on the schools’ plea, Abdon Nkotanyi, a parent, said: “On the one hand, some people are losing jobs, while on the other, the country is achieving more through the 12YBE programme.”