Private varsities plead to admit state-sponsored students

Thursday July 30 2020

UR

The premises of the University of Rwanda is the main recipient of students on state sponsorship. Photo | Cyril Ndegeya  

JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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Private higher learning institutions in the country are pushing for changes to be allowed to admit students on state sponsorship as most face a bleak future due to dwindling enrollment numbers.

The varsities complained that making an admission of state-sponsored students a privilege of public universities amounts to unfair treatment of accredited learning institutions in the country, leaving the majority of them to struggle to stay afloat.

The demands have lately gained momentum spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic which imposed a heavy financial burden on several private learning institutions, leaving three closed down by the regulator over the past weeks.

“The government has cited limited funding as reason they are sponsoring only students in public institutions and we don’t find those reasons convincing considering that some of the programmes we run are very key to the nation transformation,” said Dr Callixte Kabera, head of the association of private universities.

Kabera who is also the vice-chancellor of the University of Tourism, Technology and Business Studies (UTB) told Rwanda Today that the association formally presented their demands to the Ministry of Education in a memo sent weeks ago.

They also argue that this was a likely solution to the financial sustainability challenges facing private higher learning institutions in the country.

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“All other countries in the East Africa Community are sponsoring students irrespective of whether they are in private or public institutions. It is a problem of treating all accredited institutions fairly,” Kabera said.

Currently, estimated 9,000 students granted state sponsorship for higher education annually are all going to the University of Rwanda and a few government-run polytechnic colleges, which also run parallel programs for self-sponsored students.

This has seen private academies scrambling for a section of secondary school leavers who fail to make it into the scholarship schemes and have means to sponsor themselves.

Dr Fabien Hagenimana, INES-Ruhengeri Vice Chancellor argues that in so doing, the education system ends up creating first and second class universities “which jeopardise the quality and development we want.”

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