*Programme short of Rwf 27bn
The future of a newly established education program that was designed to trim down the rate of secondary school drop-outs looks bleak after failing to raise funds to construct classrooms.
The 9-year Basic Education Program whose implementation started with the current academic year, must construct more than 3,000 classrooms within four months to accommodate primary leavers by January next year.
According to the Minister of Education, Dr Charles Murigande, the program is facing a deficit of Rwf 27bn from the initial Rwf37billion needed to build the classrooms.
He revealed that the Ministry of Finance has only raised Rwf10 billion which must be used in the shortest time possible.
“The districts can mobilize the locals to come up with the needed construction materials like bricks and stones while the ministry uses the little money it has to purchase materials like cement and iron sheets,” Murigande said in recent meeting with district officials.
His proposal was seconded by the majority of local authorities but they expressed worries that some areas of the country neither have stones nor sand, and making bricks remains a challenge since they need to use wood to bake them which may attract the wrath of environmentalists.
Disagreement over the disbursement of the available Rwf 10bn
There are disagreements among senior government officials both in central and local government on how the Rwf 10 billion can be equitably disbursed and effectively used.
Some want the money to be sent to the districts while others are proposing to use the Rwanda Public Procurement Authority to buy the materials and distribute them to districts.
During a meeting with the mayors, Murigande provoked heated debates on the disbursement of the money proposing to send the money to the districts – an idea that was welcomed by mayors but didn’t go well with the governors.
The minister said that everything possible had to be done to have the classrooms in place by December this year.
“What if we give the money to the districts and we hold them accountable, then we also come up with policies of how we can keep supervising the districts?” Murigande proposed.
However, the Permanent Secretary in the local government ministry, Eugene Barikana, immediately intervened and said that the issue was initially discussed with officials from Rwanda Public Procurement Authority before Murigande was appointed education minister.
“We agreed that MINEDUC comes up with a clear policy of how the money can be disbursed so that we eliminate any form of misappropriation,” said Barikana.
He added that some time back, the government allocated money to districts for the construction of houses for vulnerable people, but the funds and the construction materials were misused.
“Currently, there is a team probing the fate of this money and we do not want to make the same mistake,” added Barikana
The Governor of Eastern Province, Ephraim Kabayija, strongly opposed the idea of allocating funds to districts saying that in the past his province had not excelled in funds management because the district mayors were not adhering to policies.
He proposed the use the central procurement system.
The Mayor of Kirehe, Protais Murayire, said that instead of using the central procurement, the government should hire construction companies and sign contracts with them. He proposed that each province be dealt with separately.
Highlighting the case of his district, the Mayor Kamonyi, Jean Paul Munyandamutsa, said that he had worked closely with his people and they have managed to gather all the raw materials and would soon start building foundations for the classrooms.
“I personally believe in the use of community approach than the central procurement since it gives more quality assurance,” said Munyandamutsa.
To calm down the heated debates, Murigande told mayors that he will spend the whole of Thursday and Friday moving around all provinces together with the local government minister meeting mayors and come up with a solution to the problem.