As travel restrictions to Uganda linger, the fate of Rwandan students studying across the border hangs in the balance, with officials asking those affected to transfer to local schools.
“Whenever there is a case of a Rwandan crossing into a country and gets harmed, it is in our interest to stop them from travelling there, and we explore ways we can work together to meet their needs locally,” said the Minister of Local Government, Anastase Shyaka.
For the second week running, hundreds of Rwandan children mainly from border communities are unable to cross into Uganda to attend school, owing to the growing tension between the two countries.
A large number of students had been crossing the border at Cyanika, Kagitumba and Gatuna until Rwanda imposed restrictions over concerns of security of its nationals while in Uganda.
“Parents living near the border believe Ugandan schools are better because learners master the English language faster, and the fee is lower,” said Emmanuel Hakizimana, a parent from Mahama which borders Uganda and Tanzania.
Parents also say secondary schools and Universities in Uganda are cheaper even after factoring in transport costs.
Recently more than 180 Rwandan students at Kampala University missed their graduation ceremony due to the travel restrictions.
“We are in a limbo since it is still not possible to travel; those with relatives and friends in Uganda are engaging them so that they can host the children and continue their studies unhindered,” said Faustin Niyonzima, a border resident.
Officials among border communities are now helping parents enroll their children in local schools.
In Cyanika sector for example, more than 50 students were unable to resume studies in Uganda following the travel restrictions.
“Those we receive sit a test to determine the level they are at before admission into local schools,” said Bonaventure Habimana, the head teacher of Cyanika Primary school which admitted 23 pupils last week.
The impact of the row on border movement recently featured in discussions at the just concluded national leadership retreat, with President Paul Kagame putting blame on officials for letting children and residents in general cross to “seek services the country is known better for by the rest of the world.”
“There is something wrong with the system if you find it normal,” President Kagame said,adding that Rwandan students were probably receiving the same quality of education as they would back home.
Rwanda has made a number of reforms in its education sector including a revamp of the curriculum.