10 January 2018

Rwanda: Senators Call for Coordinated Research in Tertiary Institutions

Members of the Senatorial Committee for Social Affairs, urged the Ministry of Education to ensure coordination of research in institutions of higher learning.

The Senators said this while meeting the Minister of State for Primary and Secondary Education, Isaac Munyakazi, and his team to discuss what the government was doing to promote innovation.

Senator Dr Jean Damascene Ntawukuriryayo said that if education is the determinant baseline for research in the country, there was need to, for instance, promote mathematics and other sciences more since they are the backbone of quality research.

He pointed out that, for better results, there was need to start with basic research before advancing to applied research.

"For you to be able to do that, you must have skills. Where do we get these skills? In quality education. You cannot talk about a researcher when he has not studied mathematics, physics, biology or chemistry. No matter what you are researching about, you will need mathematics. It will cost us a lot to upgrade the person to an international standard of research to be competitive," he said.

He pointed out lack of internships and funding issues which makes student field trips almost impossible.

"There is no money. Any student who completes a bachelor's degree should be able to write a paper if indeed you want them to get research experience. Dissertations were scrapped but everywhere in the world, a student must write one and be evaluated. We don't have that but we are insisting that education will provide the research baseline. Something needs to be done," he said.

The same sentiments were raised by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Rwanda (UR) in charge of institutional advancement, Dr Charles Murigande, while appearing before the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in October.

At the time, Murigande said that University of Rwanda budget constraints were derailing students, especially, those doing sciences pointing out that in some instances, students have had to contribute money to buy fuel so they can go to the field.

"Our students did not study well the last two years. Whoever was supposed to go to a laboratory 10 times was able to do so only once or twice," he said.

Senator Narcisse Musabeyezu said, yesterday that there was need for coordination of research done by different institutions of higher learning.

"When you go to medicine, they are doing their own research. It is the same in agriculture, but who really does the follow-up and coordinates these findings so that there are no overlaps? It is important," he said.

He expressed his concern over the UR's College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine Busogo and the Nyagatare campus which he said had not done a lot to improve the lives of those that live around them.

"In Nyagatare, that institution should be helping those around it but it doesn't. In Busogo, they are studying agriculture but soil erosion is still an issue in the area. It's ISAR that is trying to do research that has benefited the residents around it. Let's focus on research that will improve the lives of our people," he said.

Minister talks restructuring

Addressing the Senators, Minister Munyakazi admitted that the number of researchers, especially in agriculture, was still inadequate but a lot was being done to push universities and other higher institutions of learning to invest more time into research.

Addressing the issue of mathematics, Munyakazi said this had already been fixed with changes made to the curriculum to give the subject priority.

"There were gaps in previous years but the curriculum changed last year and mathematics was given the attention it deserves and, so far, we can see some positive changes," he said.

On the issue of internship and fieldwork, Munyakazi said that there had been an overhaul of the entire funding model and the challenge would be history soon.

"There has been restructuring and an overhaul of the funding model. The new one will soon close all the gaps," he said.

Research is still being conducted in various institutions in different areas like agriculture, industries and others, he added.

But he warned that, though there have been some achievements, a lot more needs to be done.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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