Rwandan school bursaries are not a big headache anymore and the issue may not arise at the forthcoming national dialogue in December.
The problem of delayed bursary loans almost came up in all previous national dialogues and there seemed no lasting solution. Whenever president Kagame visited students, they asked him to help fix the bursary issue. The president always tasked education ministry to work on it, in vain.
Every year, Rwandans both in the country and abroad meet to dialogue on issues of national importance and President Paul Kagame chairs the dialogue.
At some point, in October 2010, cabinet approved a decision to cancel bursary loans used to support government-assisted students through their academic life.
However, in October 2015, government mandated Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD) to manage students’ loans and bursaries previously handled by the Ministry of education.
During the National Dialogue in December 2015, participants wanted the bursaries problem solved once and for all.
With the beginning of the 2016 academic year, BRD bank has already disbursed quarterly living allowances to over 26,000 students from local universities and 900 students studying abroad.
The bursary loan includes a flat tuition fee worth Rwf 600,000 per annum and a monthly living allowance of Rwf 25,000.
“No more delay in scholarship disbursement because every three months, the beneficiaries get their stipend. The wise will lead a decent academic life,” says Fred Mugisha, Head of Education Financing Department at BRD.
Who qualifies for Bursary?
Upon being given the mandate to manage students’ loans and bursaries, BRD established a department for Education Financing.
Government was looking for efficient management of disbursement and recoveries with a focus to attaining long term financial self-sustainability.
Under the new arrangement, it’s the government that receives applications for scholarship and then submits the approved names to BRD.
The list of beneficiaries is sent with an annual budget of Rwf 29 billion onto BRD’s account until the fund will be self-sustainable, ten years from now. A large part of this money will be deposited on schools’ accounts to cover students’ tuition (Rwf 600,000 per student).
The rest will cover monthly living allowance (Rwf 25,000 per student) which is disbursed to individual students’ account.
Another Rwf 10 billion was also sent to international universities and Rwandan embassies to cover tuition and living allowances and transport to 900 Rwandan students abroad.
To get a scholarship from BRD, a student signs a contract with the bank committing to recover the loan within 4 years after starting work. The money will be recovered with 11% interest rate, which is the lowest in Rwanda.
Students Excited About new Bursaries management
Gilbert Nshimiyimana a second year student at the College of Education told this website, “We can now plan for the money whatever little.”
Nshimiyimana remembers that when he started university in September 2014, he only got the first allowance three months later, “Food was not enough at school; I could not concentrate while hungry,” he said.
Another student, Martin Karisa recurrently suffered effects of delayed bursary, his landlord asked him to leave the house he was renting because of accumulated arrears.
Nshimiyimana, Karisa and one other colleague have opted to rent from outside campus because it is possible to find renting fee.
“We raise a total Rwf 20,000 every month for rent and we cook for ourselves to have as enough as we want,” Karisa said.
Meanwhile, among 67,000 students who have to recover scholarships given to them since the 1980s only 17,000 loan beneficiaries are reimbursing.
Of the Rwf 81 billion arrears to be recovered, BRD has only recovered barely Rwf 500 million since January.
The bank has a target to recover 70% of this money within two years. Currently, Mugisha, said “we have sent letters to 11,000 employers, tasking them to engage their employees.”