Universities now seek Kagame help over their revoked licences

Sunday November 5 2017

JKUAT Kigali campus. Photo: File

JKUAT Kigali campus. The institution would facilitate its students to transfer to the main campus in Nairobi. PHOTO FILE | NATION  

By MOSES K. GAHIGI
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The owners of five Rwandan universities whose licences were revoked have asked President Paul Kagame to intervene as the move exposes them to liabilities and interrupts learning.

Sighgad Technical Education Society, Tanzania Open University, Rusizi International University, Nile Source Polytechnic of applied arts and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) have been forced to close doors after the Higher Education Council (HEC) revoked their licences.

Abdallah Nzitonda, the principal and co-founder of the Sinhgad Technical Education Society told Rwanda Today the institutions wrote to the president and were now awaiting a response.

“We have asked his office to look into this matter because we hope a higher authority will see the injustice in the closures,” he said.

In particular, the universities want President Kagame to weigh in on HEC’s accusation that they were running programmes not licenced by the council.

Mr Nzitonda said at the time of its closure, Sinhgad was running an MBA and four engineering courses in civil, computer, electronic and telecommunication engineering programmes, and that HEC was aware that the institution was offering them. 

He added that the university only opened after an extensive assessment by HEC, which concluded that the university was fit to start operations.

Mr Nzitonda said HEC or its auditors have not inspected the school for the past three and a half years and only turned up to order its closure.

“We responded to their concerns, but we never heard from them and only saw them when they came to close the university,” he said.
The owners of Sinhgad had invested up to Rwf2 billion ($2.4 million) to set up the university.

Set requirements

HEC said it closed Sighgad Technical Education Society because it did not adhere to set requirements of having permanent lecturers, laboratories and minimum standard structures for a university.

The closure of the five institutions has left over 3,000 students stranded as some try to get into other universities.

HEC has asked the affected students to transfer and continue their courses at other universities and has offered to facilitate the transfers.

Students who were in the final year at the time of the closures are concerned that they might not get their degrees, while others who are trying to transfer to other universities are worried that they will loose a whole academic year.

Many students at JKUAT are uncertain about their degrees as the university is yet to officially communicate about the option of completing studies at the main campus in Nairobi.

Students to transfer

Wilson Cheruiyot, the director of JKUAT Kigali Campus said the institution would facilitate its students to transfer to the main campus in Nairobi.

“We shall clear all our students and they will get their degrees,” said Mr Cheruiyot.

The process of switching to other universities has been cumbersome and costly. Students say JKUAT has given them transcripts that have some course results missing.

“When we ask the management about the missing results, they tell us they also don’t know what is going on. They told us to wait but it is now seven months later,” said Joseph Munyampara who transferred to the University of Kigali.

JKUAT closed two weeks to the final exams after students had already paid tuition fees and this could explain the missing results for students transferring to other universities.

HEC had given all tertiary institutions up to September 13 to address the recommendations made in the previous audit or face cancellation of their licences.

The audit stemmed from a government request in November 2016 to carry out a full and detailed inspection aimed at assessing how institutions in the country conduct their operations and how the teaching and learning process is being implemented.