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Friday, January 21, 2022

Rwanda warns schools against hiking fees

Jean d’Amour Mbonyinshuti

Rwanda’s Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) has intervened to stop the increase of fees in public and government aided schools, saying that the cost of education was increasingly becoming unaffordable for some parents.

The Government subsidises education through various initiatives, including setting up infrastructure, equipping schools with academic materials, providing capitation grants, as well as paying teachers, which it says, should offset the cost of education.

Besides, parents are required to pay schools fees and, over the years, such fees have been increasing.

School fees in many public and government aided schools is over Rwf100,000 per term.

“School fees have been on the increase over the years and it is a serious concern,” said Francoise Umutoni, a parent who has a student at a Gicumbi-based school.

Umutoni said that in addition to the school fees of Rwf105,000 for her Senior Three son, she pays extra charges every term, which pushes the fees to an estimated Rwf200,000.

“We also have to rent mattresses from the school and there are some other school materials that we are required to buy from the school,” she added.

Parents are also required to pay extra fees such as insurance, bonuses for teachers and paying for mock tests, according to officials.

Other charges include, fees for students’ welfare, school development such as buying a school vehicle, construction fees, and paying for teachers and school employees who are not on government payroll among others.

According to the Ministry of Education, persistent increase of school fees in public and government assisted schools contravenes government policy on access to education for all, especially for pupils and students from financially disadvantaged families.

“The Ministry of Education expresses its deep concerns with the continued malpractices of various schools that have continuously increased overall school costs without prior consultation,” Eugene Mutimura, the Minister for Education said in a statement.

The statement, dated January 9, says such consultations should be done during the respective schools general assemblies and should be approved by district authorities after thorough analysis.

“No schools are allowed to increase (parents’) contributions through overall school costs in the first term of (the) school year 2019,” the statement reads in part.

In addition to the existing procedures, according to the ministry, any schools desiring to increase schools fees and other related fees will be required to inform their respective district authorities through an official letter, with a copy to the ministry.

Schools to be audited

On Wednesday, Isaac Munyakazi, the State Minister for Primary and Secondary Education, said that effective this academic year, schools will be audited to justify how they spend money.

“Measures will be taken against school leadership which will not comply with these instructions and will be found with unclean audit,” he said

The minister said the raising school fees was a burden to parents even in 12-Year Basic Education, which initially was designed to be free and accessible to all.

“We issued guidelines to all districts to follow up and stop such malpractices,” he added.

Unfair parents’ committees

Some parents faulted their respective parents’ committees, saying they connive with schools to take unpopular decisions against the will of other parents. The ministry said it was aware of this.

“Sometimes such parents’ committees connive with school management to take decisions that don’t best represent the interests of other parents,” said Munyakazi.

However, some schools said there was need for the ministry to consult schools on why they increase the fees.

“I don’t think any school can increase school fees just to cheat parents. There is need to consider the cost of living which is high and schools are required to take care of students ,” said  a head teacher of a Kigali-based school who preferred anonymity

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