Public schools are under pressure to raise funds following a recent government directive ordering them not to increase school fees.
Now, school authorities say they face a difficult time as they lack sufficient funds to provide the required services.
The directive by the Ministry of Education followed public outcry over the current fees, which they term “too high and a burden for parents with low-income jobs.”
Many schools increased fees from between Rwf145,000 to Rwf160,000 inclusive of contributions for putting up school facilities like halls, fencing, school vehicles, water tanks as well as teacher bonuses among others.
School managers said the increment was largely driven by reduced funding by the government, rising market prices and huge logistical demands imposed by the recurring reforms in the education sector, among other things.
For instance, school managers said they are yet to be paid a substantial amount of money in capitation grants, which in addition to unpaid school fees, will see them struggle to run their operations.
“We will not go against a government directive, but the reality is that we are currently grappling with pending debts with our suppliers,” said Joseph Rukuranda of G S Rambura.
Mr Rukuranda told Rwanda Today that the school is owed Rwf5.6 million in unpaid capitation grants. Several other schools reported being owed similar debts especially for the 2016 school year.
The schools say issues worsened when the education ministry reduced the per-student basis allocation by more than 80 per cent three years ago.
The Ministry of Education reduced the capitation grant to public boarding schools from Rwf156 to Rwf56 for each student per day.
The move aimed to support the underfunded school feeding programme in 9-12-year basic education schools. Schools responded by increasing fees by between Rwf8,000 and Rwf20,000 to fund the budget shortfall.
Helene Nayituriki, head of Lycee notre dame de Citeaux in Kigali, said school fees hikes are inevitable following the funding cut because without parents’ contributions many schools would be unable to provide for students and run other activities.
A look at public boarding schools in urban areas and some in rural areas, showed that those whose fees remained in the Rwf47,000- Rwf65,000 range, increased them by almost half at the start of the current school year.
“The Ministry of Education needs to determine the average amount of money a parent should pay in public schools, and abolish all unnecessary costs such as those associated with putting up facilities, to ensure school fees stop being a huge burden on parents,” said Claude Ndayishimiye, a parent.
Father Gaetan Kayitana, an educationist said that pressure on public schools to accommodate an increasing student population to keep pace with the rising market prices had seen most raise money equal or above those charged by some private boarding schools.
The Ministry of Education said contributions from parents require approvals from the district to avoid abuse.
“It is not clear how a government school, or those run on partnership can charge Rwf100,000 or more per term when the government pays for teachers, teaching and study materials, computers and infrastructure,” said State Minister for Primary and Secondary Education Isaac Munyakazi.
Mr Munyakazi said no further increment of fees would be allowed until the education ministry carried out an audit to see what schools do with monies they get from different sources.