The Hon. Louise Mushikiwabo, as Minister for Information, had embarked on a programme to develop and strengthen the communication function of government departments and Institutions.
The idea was to avail information to the public and amongst government departments. The anger, disappointment and threats that have followed the beginning of the Academic year 2010 illustrate the foresight of Hon. Mushikiwabo.
After weeks of uncertainty with thousands of students “stranded” at different Universities including the National University of Rwanda and other higher institutions of higher learning, including those that draw funds from government coffers, the director of the School Financing Agency (SFAR) Emmanuel Muvunyi was quoted as saying, “Students only based on the list that appeared in a government weekly run newspaper (Imvaho).
This list only indicated students who have been admitted in the respective universities which has nothing to do with SFAR.” What has anything to do with SFAR if it is not students in Rwanda and who has the duty to inform them if it is not SFAR, someone may ask.
The workings of SFAR an enigma as they are should change for Rwanda’s sake.
As an example, on Tuesday 19th 2010 at 7.45a.m SFAR made an announcement on Radio Rwanda calling for applications for scholarships to study abroad and after mentioning a list of requirements, listeners were informed that the deadline for applications was that day at 5 pm.
Who sits to listen to announcements on radio at a time when people are on their way to work or school? Why wait to make announcements on the last day of applications. No wonder few people can understand the workings and criteria SFAR uses.
At Umutara Polytechnic University, where 700 students were stranded, the Vice Rector Eugene Ndabaga, like he had just jetted in from Dadis Kamara’s Guinea, was quoted as saying, “We shall call the Police to arrest those who vow not to leave the campus.”
He might have added that he would tell police to shoot them had he had the powers. Ndabaga, the police cannot explain to your potential clients/students what the university can and cannot do for them; it is part of the institution’s work. Inviting your potential clients/customers/students to a meeting where you would explain to them the limits to what your institution can do would keep the police and arrests away. Students were not rioting or disrupting public order.
If anyone thought that the lack of customer care in Rwanda was acute among simple everyday people like waiters and shop attendants, think twice.
One student was quoted as saying, “We finished registration and everything and imagine they informed us about this yesterday.” The result has been that in the absence of official communication from responsible departments and offices people’s imagination and guesswork has run wild.
It has been rumoured that “the money SFAR should have spent on students will be diverted to presidential campaigns, it is going to be spent on building skyscrapers in the city of Kigali according to the city master plan, the government made a lot of losses and wants to use SFAR money…”all of which is not true. But without the truth to counter them, lies fly faster and wider.
The good Minister for Education Dr. Charles Muligande, for those who happened to tune in to BBC’s Gahuzamiryango Programme of Wednesday 20th, explained that the Universities were implementing programmes according to a law that was passed two years ago.
The law was not enforced last year because it was passed at a time when students had sat for their final examinations.
The government, explained Muligande does not have resources to pay for all qualifying university students every year and instead it will finance the education of those students in identified national priority areas and those that excel but lack resources to further their education at university level.
It is interesting to note that for the period of thirty years that preceded Rwanda’s independence the National University of Rwanda, the only University in the country produced less than two thousand graduates an average of 67 students per year for over thirty years.
The government then could pay for the education of all students who were “allowed” to join university (students did not qualify but were allowed to study at the national university).
With tens of thousands of students qualifying for university studies the government cannot pay for each and every student.
The law the minister mentioned sets out the criteria for students for whom the government pays through SFAR, the role of parents, the local leadership and Universities.
The number of ordinary people in Rwanda who get to know the debates and laws passed by Parliament and those who access the Official gazette may be negligible and yet people deserve to know new laws and changes made to existing ones. Parliament needs to inform the people of Rwanda about their activities.
The proposed FM Radio station for the august House is an interesting idea but its national coverage remains to be seen and one wonders whether the possibility of utilizing the existing infrastructure of ORINFOR was considered.
It was and it is the duty of the Ministry of Education, Universities and SFAR to inform the people of Rwanda what had changed and the new procedures to be followed regarding the revised law concerning government scholarships in institutions of higher learning.
The leadership in these government institutions owes it to the people of Rwanda. The need to communicate on part of national institutions as envisioned by Hon. Mushikiwabo cannot be overemphasized.