Students and dons demand EAC course durations

Saturday March 16 2013

By IGNATIUS SSUUNA Special Correspondent

Rwanda’s private and public universities want the education curriculum changed so as to be in harmony with that of their competitors within the East African Community (EAC).

Some local universities argue that they lose students to their competitors within the EAC where some bachelor’s degrees take a student only three years to obtain. Most undergraduate courses in Rwandan universities run for a minimum of four years.

Prof Rwigamba Balinda, the founder of Kigali Independent University (ULK), says there are discussions with the government to have the duration of some degree courses reviewed. The don, who is also the president of Private Higher Institutions of Education in Rwanda, said private and public universities recently met leaders from the Ministry of Education and discussed the matter.

“We shall meet again over this,” Prof Balinda revealed.

It was not clear whether the request would be granted although several students have in the past voiced similar concerns to the ministry.

As at December 2011, Rwanda had 31 higher learning institutions, 17 of them public and 14 private, with a student population of 37,902 and 35,772, respectively, totalling 73,674.

Mt Kenya University, which set up shop in Kigali two years ago, has a huge student population particularly because of its three-year undergraduate programmes compared to four years at other universities.

To attract foreign students and retain local ones, however, education experts argue, Rwandan universities must first put the available infrastructure in place to meet the available demand.

The ministry is auditing both public and private universities to establish whether the institutions provide quality education. Among other things, the ministry is supposed to look into the institutions’ curriculum and course contents and weigh their relevance to the economic development of the country.

Education experts argue that Rwanda’s education system has to improve its quality. They say students in primary and secondary school are not exposed to the practical part of education and therefore require four years of in-depth study at university in order to catch up with their counterparts in the EAC.

A student at ULK, Stephen Asiimwe, however says the question of local universities losing students to their EAC counterparts due to short course durations there does not arise.

“That is not true. Have they reported any student shortages? Those who go are the ones who fail to get into universities with their poor grades,” Mr Asiimwe argued.