18 February 2013

Rwanda: Uganda Fancies Rwanda Students? Loan Scheme

Uganda is mulling over picking a leaf from Rwanda's students' loan scheme after a visit by top government officials led by Jessica Alupo, the neighbouring country's Education and Sports minister.

The delegation that also includes MPs on the education commission, is on a three-day study tour to ascertain how to implement the student loan scheme of Rwanda.

Burundi and Uganda are the only EAC countries that are yet to establish the system that facilitates poor students, who then refund the money once they complete their studies and are in employment.

"Rwanda is one of the few African countries that have successfully implemented the scheme and this is what we want to learn and replicate in Uganda," Alupo said in interview with The New Times.

She added that there was still a huge gap between the poor and rich in Uganda, saying it is why such initiatives are needed to uplift a section of the population through funding, on loan basis, their university education.

Alupo said although they were in final stages of drafting the law establishing the scheme, they needed more input concerning the legal framework and the modalities of identifying the beneficiaries as well as techniques in recovery of loans.

Through the Students Financing Agency of Rwanda, which is now part of the Rwanda Education Board (Reb), students who obtain a set pass mark are enlisted in public universities and some of them who are deemed very vulnerable, are given a monthly stipend to sustain them.

The Ubudehe system

To determine the most vulnerable to qualify for the stipend, government uses lists prepared under the Ubudehe programme that categorises Rwandans according to their financial means.

According to statistics from Reb, the number of current beneficiaries of the government bursary stands at 23,924, spread out in different public institutions.

Addressing the visiting delegates, Emmanuel Muvunyi, the deputy director-general of Reb, said the scheme has had a great impact on the country's development, especially in producing the required skills.

He further said the system had a long term impact, citing the increased employment, making the higher education system more responsive to the country's labour market needs by encouraging demand-driven academic programmes.

Muvunyi, however, said the system encountered some challenges in different countries using it like insufficient funding, a very high default and evasion rate and absence of political commitment to support the system among others.

Other African countries where the loan scheme system has succeeded includes Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria Malawi, Botswana Ghana and Ethiopia among others.

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