Education ministry in plea for funds to back free learning

Wednesday June 3 2020

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The government says more funds will be needed to finance free education. Photo | Cyril Ndegeya  

JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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The government is struggling to raise funds for key programmes in the education sector, among them school feeding programme and construction of classrooms ahead of the new academic calendar beginning September.

Rwanda Today has learnt that the Ministry of Education is currently negotiating for more funds to meet increasing costs related to construction and equipping primary schools with kitchens, chefs and food supplies.

Parents are also expected to increase their contributions to expand the school feeding programme.

In the June 2020/21 financial year, the government plans to expand the school feeding programme to all primary schools in the country.

Currently, the school feeding programme is limited to the 9-12 year education schools. In addition, there is a need for new classrooms to address overcrowding in schools.

While in the new financial year the government plans to increase allocations to education sector by Rwf170.9 billion to Rwf481.1 billion, this is not sufficient.

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According to Education Ministry officials, Treasury allocation towards subsidizing meals for primary school pupils was still below the proposed package of Rwf65 billion.

Samuel Mulindwa, Ministry of Education Permanent Secretary, however, declined to reveal budget gap but confirmed the ministry was in negotiations with Treasury for additional funds, which would have to be supplemented by parents’ contribution.

“The government subsidy would be in terms of infrastructure including building and equipping 2,408 schools without kitchens, hiring and paying cooks in addition to the variable costs of foodstuffs,” he said.

The government has been contributing Rwf8 billion annually as subsidy for day meals in secondary schools where it contributes Rwf56 per student per day.

Mr Mulindwa told Rwanda Today the State subsidy, inclusive of costs beyond food costs, would be Rwf100 per child per day while parents would contribute Rwf70 per child per day.

The scheme is targeting estimated 1.4 million children in over 2,517 public and Government aided schools nationwide.

Details from the ministry show that another huge chunk of the Rwf481.1 billion education budget will go towards tackling overcrowding in schools where official data point to persistent cases of class sizes exceeding 70 pupils or 100 in extreme cases.

An assessment carried out last year by World Bank indicated that more than 227 most over-crowded schools are the Eastern, Western and Southern provinces where learning took place in shifts and with help of assistant teaching staff.

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