Parents could be spared a sharp rise in school fees after the government agreed to additional funding to schools to support extended school term and meet costs arising from compliance with the Covid-19 preventive measures.
The Ministry of Education has offered to disburse additional school feeding funds of Rwf25,000 per student in boarding schools amid concerns that schools would struggle to keep students.
According to school heads, there was a need to raise school fees by over 60 per cent to cater for students upkeep for the term expected to last five months while also having to cover extra bills for water, and operationalising Covid-19 health protocols.
Estimates by individual schools in Kigali show, for instance, that parents needed to contribute additional Rwf49,000 and Rwf35,000 the first and second cohort of students respectively for schools to afford students’ upkeep for the extra two months.
“From these figures, the subsidy will ease the burden on both schools and parents, but it won’t solve all the financial problems faced by schools because in addition to the longer school term, there has been a general rise in prices and other bills,” said Sam Nkurunziza, head of Kagarama Secondary School in Kigali.
Besides, only boarding schools are eligible for the education ministry’s additional school feeding support.
The government allocates to schools Rwf56 per student per day, but unlike day schools that use the funds to cater for one meal, boarding schools use the funds to cover three meals with parents always having to contribute.
“Day schools should as well be considered for additional school feeding support because they are also going to see costs rise though it is not as high as in boarding. There is a need for additional Rwf9,000 per student for the extra days of the term. If the government doesn’t come in to help, then there has to be an arrangement or a directive instructing parents to be the ones chipping in,” said Karangwa Sewase Jean Claude, an educationist who is a former headteacher.
In several parts of the country, schools’ attempts to raise the much-needed funds through fees increment did not go down well with pandemic hit families and learners from disadvantaged families already struggling to pay current fees.
Etienne Mukeragabiro, head teacher at GS Rambura in Nyabihu District told Rwanda Today that while the announcement of the additional meal funding by government came as a reprieve for schools, there is a need for the disbursement to be expedited to allow schools to purchase much of the needed supplies at affordable terms.
No disbursement schedules were released, but the ministry in its circular to Districts dated February 4, ordered heads of boarding schools to file requests for the funds according to their boarding student numbers.
Schools in Kigali which have been closed for close to five weeks are also bracing for pressure to race against the clock to catch up with the rest of the schools once they reopen.
Despite the government lifting the three-week lockdown on February 7, the ministry was yet to indicate when they planned to reopen by the time of going to press.