The Government has until August this year to act on the recommendation of senators to have the current monthly stipend for government-sponsored university students revised upwards.
The Kaminuza Star understands that, in February, the Senate gave the Government up to six months to come up with a new figure.
This followed a field visit to institutions of higher learning by a team of senators last year during which it was established that the Rwf25, 000 that every government-sponsored student receives in monthly living allowance is too little to help the students meet basic needs.
Senator Gallican Niyongana, the Chairperson of the senatorial Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Human Rights and Petitions, confirmed the development.
“The committee assessed the situation in universities and found that government-aided students face several challenges which could be eased if the monthly allowance was increased,” he told The Kaminuza Star in April. “The Government still has time to decide on the way forward because we gave them six months to look into the matter.”
He, however, warned that Government had too many competing priorities. “We are aware of the challenges on the part of the Government because the resources are limited yet there are so many priorities.”
“Nonetheless, we found that it was necessary to revisit the amount that the students receive.”
The monthly stipend has remained unchanged for more than a decade and students say it no longer reflects the reality on the ground.
Many say the cost of living in the capital Kigali and elsewhere in the country has since increased significantly.
The bursary scheme is currently managed by the Rwanda Development Bank, which took over the responsibility from the Rwanda Education Board over a year ago. BRD is also in charge of recovery to ensure sustainability of the scheme.
However, the Ministry of Education is still in charge of the policy and will be involved in any major decision on the matter.
The Kaminuza Star tried to get a comment from the ministry officials but a communications officer there said the minister, Papias Musafiri, was out of the country, and referred us to BRD or the High Education Council.
But by press time we had not succeeded in reaching HEC officials while BRD said they were awaiting recommendations from a team that had been tasked to look into the matter and suggest the way forward.
The team includes people from the Ministry of Education, according to an official with BRD, who spoke on condition of anonymity as she was not authorised to speak on behalf of the media.
“For us we implement what has been agreed upon by the authorities and that’s what we are waiting for,” she said.
It remains unclear whether a decision can be taken ahead of the next financial year, which will start in July.
However, addressing journalists earlier, during a news conference held shortly after the conclusion of the 14th National Leadership Retreat, Education minister Musafiri had watered down the issue of demand for bursary increase, saying that the Government’s top priority in the sector at the moment was infrastructure development. He also urged parents to chip in.
”Family must take part”
“The Government is currently investing a lot in educational infrastructure which is costly, so the parents of university students should play their role by contributing toward the feeding of their children in the same way it is done in secondary schools,” he said at the time.
He added: “Some people only look at the living allowance and forget how much government spends in terms of tuition fees (for the Government-sponsored students), infrastructure development, training equipment, salaries, among others.”
He however added “The living allowance will be increased whenever capacity allows.”