Low girls’ intake in public universities raises concern

The University of Rwanda is embarking on a research to establish why female students are reluctant to apply and enroll into the institution.   
Some of the female graduates at the maiden graduation ceremony of the University of Rwanda a fortnight ago. (Timothy Kisambira)
Some of the female graduates at the maiden graduation ceremony of the University of Rwanda a fortnight ago. (Timothy Kisambira)

The University of Rwanda is embarking on a research to establish why female students are reluctant to apply and enroll into the institution. 

The institution has been having few female applicants compared to their male counterparts.

In the just-concluded intake, girls’ applications into the institution made up only 30 per cent of total applications.

Prof. Nelson Ijumba, the deputy vice chancellor for academic affairs and research, told The New Times that it was alarming that girls were staying off public institutions considering that the enrollment of  girls in private universities is over 50 per cent.

He ruled out cut off points as a factor that could hold back girls, saying it is not that the girls do not qualify, they get the marks required but are reluctant to enroll into public institutions.

“We have asked the Centre of Gender Studies to look into the issue because the point is that girls are qualified but they are hesitant to apply,” Prof. Ijumba told The New Times.

“Affirmative action will not be a solution; the issue is not about lowering girls’ entry points into the institution, that would only serve to make matters worse because it would probably attract under-qualified female students that will bring talk that women cannot handle university education.

In the recent graduation, he noted that although there might have been fewer female graduates, their performance was impressive.  

He also said there was a tendency by female students to shy away from science and technology related courses and preferred business, economics and medicine.

Prof. Ijumba recommended advocacy approach to reverse the trend.

“We need to start from secondary school level. One of the strategies would be to engage schools to talk to the female candidates before they clear school to explain to them that women and girls can perform as well in science and technology,” he said.

Dr Marie Christine Gasingirwa, the director-general of Science, Technology and Research in the Ministry of Education, said the state of affairs was alarming but the research findings will go a long way to identify solutions.  

Among the challenges she cited were mindset and culture lag of female students which led them to go for short and simpler courses.

“There are mindsets and cultural lag that hold back girls; they tend to go for short courses or other simpler courses. Those who dare to join campus perform better that boys do, the constitution however gives them an equal opportunity,” Dr Gasingirwa said.

ADVERTISEMENT