15 January 2013

Rwanda: Should FARG Decide Students' Placements?

IN A SURPRISE move, last week, the Fund for Support to Genocide Survivors (FARG) withdrew some 416 students under its wings from APERWA school, citing lack of standard.

The students were re-enrolled at other private schools admitting the Fund's beneficiaries.

Lycée de Ruhango in Southern Province absorbed some students, bringing the total number of beneficiaries under it to 400, the school officials said.

The placement of FARG beneficiaries mean each school would absorb at least 75 students if they were equally shared.

But should FARG really be the one deciding where its beneficiaries study from? What with the standard issue; can we clearly cut the boundaries of academic standards when different students have varying intellect?

Theophile Ruberangeyo, the FARG executive secretary, maintains that students chose the schools to go according to their own wishes or motivation.

"These students are in touch with their friends in different schools, so they know what school they should go to. Students actually don't consider quality but they go for the lifestyle that appeals to them in a school," said Ruberangeyo.

Quality, not numbers

He said leaving students to look for schools of their choice is not wise, though it has been done for a long time.

"I have been heading the Fund for two years, what I know is that students look for the schools for themselves. I would have intervened in orientating the students rather than let them join the same schools for their own reasons," he said.

However, he said the problem is not having the number of students in the same school, but the quality of education the school offers, and the school management.

"The problem is school leadership; you can have few students and fail to manage them," Ruberangeyo said. "We carry out inspection and sometimes we transfer students even before the year ends as long as we find a school's quality is substandard," he added.

According to Janvier Gasana, the director of quality education in Rwanda Education Board, it is not safe to send many students to one school out of hundreds of the schools around the country.

"It is something everyone should aask themselves; how FARG has allowed many students to study at the same school. It is not wise. Why didn't they distribute the students to various schools? There is something FARG should rethink and revise," he said.

Gasana, however, believes it was right for FARG to transfer its students to other schools. He urged private schools to improve their quality instead of turning education into a business.

Parliament concerned

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Evariste Kalisa said the distribution of these students has been an issue in the House.

"It is a problem that Parliament has been wondering about for a long time where you see more than 500 students sponsored by FARG among 700 in the whole school. This might not affect the students, but they should go to schools of their choice," said Kalisa.

He added that the Education Committee of Parliament is looking into school issues and a report will be released soon. He, however, said the fact that FARG recently transferred its students from three schools is a vote that the Fund does follow-up of their students.

Constantine Rukundo, the FARG national coordinator, maintains that the Fund should have the prerogative over where to place its beneficiaries.

"Children shouldn't get whatever they ask from their parents," said Rukundo. "FARG's ambition is to ensure its beneficiaries get quality education so that they perform well and join university."

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