The government has been tasked with funding priority sectors for children as a way to build long-lasting human capital development and attaining economic inclusion.
According to a joint assessment report titled, Investing in Child education in Rwanda and Investing in Children’s health in Rwanda by the United Nations of International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Save the Children and Economic Policy Research Network (EPRN), budget allocation for key sectors impacting children including education and health has been declining.
According to the report, despite budget allocation for education increasing in nominal terms between the 2014/2015 and 2018/2019 financial years from Rwf235.3 billion to Rwf273 billion, the sector’s share of the national budget has been declining from 13.4 per cent to 11 per cent between 2014/2015 to the 2018/2019 financial year.
“Looking at recent data on the overall spending in areas like education and health, it is insufficient to address all the existing challenges.
There is a very large and significant financing gap for these priority areas,” Mathew Cummins, the Public Finance Advisor at UNICEF regional office in eastern and southern Africa told Rwanda Today.
The assessment shows that between 2014 and 2017, per-student spending across education levels showed mixed trends.
Per capita spending for pre-primary and primary levels nominally increased from Rwf26,250 to Rwf32,280. However, taking into consideration currency depreciation, the spending level has remained constant over the past four years at $38 per pupil.
The assessment also shows that government per capita spending for secondary education decreased from Rwf118,004 ($171) to Rwf86,549 ($103) and from Rwf1,233,396 ($1,790) to Rwf849,276 ($1,017) for tertiary education.
However, spending for post-secondary non-tertiary education, which includes technical and vocational education and training, increased slightly.
“There is a need to consider options to significantly increase the budget allocation for the health and education sectors in order to meet demand for these services, as well as pave the way for achieving National Strategy for Transformation and Sustainable Development targets,” the report says.
A recent World Bank report titled, Rwanda Economic Updates, Tackling Stunting: An unfinished Business Agenda, said that while stunting rates have gradually decreased since 2000, they remain stubbornly high at 38 per cent and widely prevalent among the poorest households, and those living in rural areas.
The Investing in Child education in Rwanda and Investing in Children’s health in Rwanda joint report pushed for an increase in per child capita spending from the current Rwf105,557 ($119) to Rwf165,354 ($186) in order to tackle issues in the health and education sectors.
“We noted limited availability of facilities and teaching equipment, and poor education quality. Inadequate training of teachers was another issue,” said Marcel Sibomana, from Save the Children.
The report predicts that if government spending on human capital development continues as it is currently, the Gross Domestic Production will stagnate at about 7.5 per cent, inflation will remain at about four per cent, while pension contributions will decline to around 2.1 per cent within a decade.
The report urged the government to enforce careful debt management strategies and strengthen domestic revenue collection, combined with improved macroeconomic stability, to ensure consistent capital and current expenditure in priority sectors for children.