The idea to merge some of University of Rwanda (UR) colleges and relocate some was studied and adopted to aid a more efficient distribution of resources and to give students an opportunity to study in locations that are fully equipped, Education minister Papias Musafiri has said.
Musafiri, who was yesterday meeting members of the parliamentary Committee on Education, Technology, Culture and Youth ahead of their countrywide field trip, said it was understandable that UR management has in recent weeks come under fire for the decision but explained that it takes time and lots of sensitisation for most people to embrace change.
"No laws were broken. UR students were scattered all over the country but we made a decision to reorganise and this is because there is a comparative advantage," he said.
"The process is gradual and if, for instance, you look at the structures in Rukara where we took the education college, then you can understand why we felt that the place was grossly underutilised."
The minister cited an example of nursing colleges that were scattered in most parts of the country and said that bringing them together under one campus would help enhance the quality of nurses that the country needs.
"We had nursing colleges in Ngoma, Gicumbi, Nyagatare, Rwamagana and other places and each had not more than 300 students. It made more sense to move all of them to Huye campus except for the one in Rwamagana which has proper facilities," he said.
MP Philbert Uwiringiyimana asked the minister why UR continued to have financial issues even when it was on government support.
"Private universities are doing well yet they charge less in terms of tuition as compared to UR. How is it that a university that is not renting premises and is also financed by the government has so many financial issues? Is it perhaps a planning problem?" he wondered.
Minister Musafiri said measures were being put in place to make accountability even better but stated that the university was spending money in areas that would benefit the institution in future.
"There are many areas where money is spent, for instance, over 200 staff members who are being sponsored to pursue further studies and they will return and work for UR but we have also decided that each college will be handling its own budget and will be directly accountable to UR as an institution. This will also cut down on bureaucracy in accessing funds," he said.
MP Veneranda Nyirahirwa was interested in knowing why students who graduate from the university continue to be unemployed.
"UR is more than 50 years old. We are happy that the number of students that have graduated from the university has increased over the years. However, many are unemployed. What is the issue?" she asked.
Musafiri said the issue of unemployment can be attributed to a mismatch between supply and demand.
"The issue of unemployment is a result of not having fully qualified students but the approach that we are pursuing now is to work on the quality of students and how to increase the number of jobs. We are also looking into focusing on skills development," he said.
The committee is also expected to meet officials from University of Rwanda and later those from the Ministry of Labour and Public Service.