Is sports at UR on the verge of ’extinction’?

University of Rwanda Huye Campus basketball player controls the ball as they face APR last season in Kigali. / Sam Ngendahimana
Sports, like other extracurricular activities, plays an important role in academics and has an impact on students’ performance, according to experts.
However, students of the University of Rwanda complain that the institution has in recent years dumped sports which affect their performance.

”Sports has been ignored at university, it is no longer given the required attention and support,” said Joshua Ndayikunda, a 3rd year student at College of Science and Technology.

Ndayikunda directed his frustration at both the university leadership the Ministry of Sports and Culture.

He said that the government encourages people to be active by participating in different sports activities, citing Friday afternoon when officials leave offices to do sports, yet, University of Rwanda, a government institution, does not even have sports facilities.

“We used to have a mini stadium and a field where we can carry out recreational activities, but three years ago, the field was turned into a conference facility. We have no field to play football from or to engage in any sports,” said Ndayikunda.

University of Rwanda Huye Campus basketball player scores as they face APR last season in Kigali (Sam Ngendahimana)
Playground turned conference venue

Several other students at UR, College of Science and Technology share the same concern.

The ground they used to use has since been into what us known as as Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village and neither the government nor the school has provided an alternative where the students can carry out their recreational activities.

This is common in most Colleges of the University of Rwanda where sport is increasingly getting less attention.

“All work and no play make us dull. Sports does not distract us from studies but, on the contrary, it clears our minds and makes us more active in school,” said Eugene Uwimana, a 3rd year student at College of Business and Economics (CBE).

At the moment, only UR-Huye Campus has three active clubs in basketball (women, which features in national division one), handball (men, division one) and football (in the national second tier). University of Rwanda has 14 campuses under six colleges that are spread across the country.

Some students complain that they do training but do not participate in any friendly or competitive games due to UR management’s reluctance.

François Habimana, a student at CBE, said, “we spend many days in training but they always postpone matches that had been prepared. We have realised that our leaders put emphasis on studies and ignore sports. Our leaders should be eager to promote sports and proud to see the university performing well in all domains.”

Jean Damascene Habyarimana who is in charge of sports in the students’ guild at the College of Business and Economics, reiterated that sports activities are dormant and called for support.

“Sport is vital to our life; it’s a way of living a healthy life and developing talent. Those who provide the budget should consider its relevance and increase funds,” he added.

University of Rwanda Huye Campus basketball player controls the ball as they face APR last season in Kigali (Sam Ngendahimana)
Need for financial support

Students of University of Rwanda say that sport in private Universities is well developed given that their teams feature in different competitions.

What’s the way out?

Albert Kayiranga, who is in charge of Sports and Culture at University of Rwanda, also pointed to financial limitations as the reason behind poor performance of sports.

“The budget is small compared to what we need in sports. We need financial support to be able to participate in competitions,” he said.

Pudence Rubingisa, the vice chancellor in charge of administration and finance, admitted that the budget allocated to sports was cut, but explained that sports culture among students is increasingly declining which also contributes to sports weakness.

“It’s true, the budget was reduced compared to the last three years. But it’s there,” he said.

“Although the budget is the main issue, sports culture among students is also weak. For instance, at the Huye Campus, there are enough sports facilities that students never make use of. At the end of studies, most students gather at sports grounds in prayer groups instead of doing sports”.

To revive sports at University of Rwanda, Rubingisa finds remedy in better management of sports.

“You can’t prepare a match and play the next day. Those who are in charge of sports at UR’s respective colleges should enhance planning, coordination and mobilisation among students. The budget will be increased but those who do sports must show interest,” he noted.

University of Rwanda Huye Campus basketball players fight for the ball as they face APR last season in Kigali (Sam Ngendahimana)