A recent strike by students of Lycee de Kigali, reflects the financial challenges school administrators are facing, as they grapple with a reduction in the government’s capitation grant and delays in disbursement monies to support feeding.
The students went on strike after the cash-strapped school revised the menu because suppliers reduced deliveries over accumulated debt.
The heads of several boarding schools in the country say they are finding it difficult to keep the institutions running because of delayed school fees payments by parents and delays in disbursement of the government grant. This has sunk them into debt, leaving them unable to provide for students and run other activities as planned.
Things got more complicated after last year’s reduction in government funding to public boarding schools from Rwf156 ($0.1) to only Rwf56 ($0.07) for each student student, per day.
Parents were expected to bridge the resulting 80 per cent funding gap but payments are delayed.
School managers say the reduction exposed them to serious operational challenges as most parents find it difficult to pay the increased fees.
A few weeks to the closing of the school year, some boarding schools were yet to collect any substantial amount from tuition fees including arrears from previous years. This has left many unable to pay suppliers.
“For now, our main concern is being able to pay suppliers of food and other essential inputs loaned to us. We have a huge amount of unpaid tuition fees, and in case nothing is done it will become a serious challenge for us,” said Joseph Rukiranda, head teacher at Rambura Garcons Secondary School.
Mr Rukiranda said they were compiling the arrears in a bid to raise the issue with district authorities.
The school heads also raised concern over delayed disbursement of the capitation grant and money for the school feeding programme.
Rwanda Today learnt that the funds for this term were yet to be disbursed at most schools.
“We are yet to get the capitation grant for this term, and we only have a few days left until the end of term. Although it does not affect the core activity of teaching, we are forced to shelve some planned activities until the money comes,” said Faustin Nshibijeho, the principal at Rwankuba GSCIM.
The head teacher of Lycee de Kigali, Martin Masabo, told journalists that the school run into problems with the food supplier over accumulated debt, which led the seller to deny the school further credit.
He estimated that the school is suffering from a shortfall of Rwf21.5 million ($25,161), of which Rwf15.6 million ($18,256) is tuition fees arrears, Rwf4.6 million ($5,383) is undisbursed school feeding fees and Rwf1.2 million ($1,404) is from the capitation grant.
The school, like many others in the country, had increased school fees by Rwf20,000 ($23) per student to fill the gap created by the reduction in government funding. However, many parents are unable to pay this amount.
Head teachers who talked to Rwanda Today said the situation would continue to affect the running of school operations if nothing was done to find a sustainable school-funding model.
The school heads said further increasing tuition fees would not help the situation because parents already struggle with current fees. Also, they are not allowed to increase fees unless the amount is decided and agreed on by parents committees, and communicated before the start of the school year.
Rwanda Today was yet to get a reaction from the Ministry of Education by press time.
In several boarding schools, students with outstanding tuition fees were sent home as soon as they finished their exams last week, to get the money or else they would be denied food.
Some of the money slashed from the capitation grant for boarding schools was reallocated to the school feeding programme in 9-12-year basic education schools.
These are day schools preferred by rural poor parents, and an alternative for those who find themselves unable to afford to take their children to boarding schools.