Rwanda: Teachers Make Loan Plea

As the deadline to phase-out unqualified teachers looms, those who enrolled for bachelor's degree in education in a race to meet the academic requirement in time decry the lack of access to loans from the Teacher's Saving and Credit Cooperative (Umwalimu Sacco) so as to finance their studies.

The appeal follows a recent assurance by the ministry of education that the cooperative was to give loans to teachers who sought to upgrade their academic qualifications.

The country has 63,000 teachers, with qualified teachers in primary accounting for 98.6 per cent of that number while in secondary schools they make 76 per cent.

However, various teachers who talked to The New Times said that they faced financial constraints that prevented them from upgrading their academic qualification.

"An announcement was issued that a teacher without a degree in education is not allowed to acquire a loan from Umwalimu Sacco," said one teacher from Gakenke District.

He suggests that if the Umwalimu Sacco cannot give them loans, the government should cater for their tuition needs and they payback later.

"Another issue is that, if they dismiss us what will happen when we have not yet finished paying back the long-term loan we had taken before yet we do not have any other source of income?" he noted.

Another teacher who also preferred anonymity told this newspaper that her loan request from the Sacco was not approved.

"Last week, I went with all required documents to request for a loan from Umwalimu Sacco in our district branch. But they told me that because I am not categorised as an employee who holds a degree in education, I am not eligible for the loan," she said.

Her particular issue, she said, is that she is still remunerated based on her high school qualifications in languages despite having a bachelor's degree in English and French from University of Rwanda.

"I went to the person in charge of credit in Gakenke District and told me that they cannot give me a loan because in January 2020 teachers without degrees in education will have been phased out," she said.

Another teacher from Nyabihu District said; "I have preferred to finance my bachelor's degree in education by using my own resource since we are not allowed to get loans. But there are so many teachers at our school who have failed to upgrade their studies due to financial constraints."

He asked the ministry to clarify the phase-out approach given that some teachers who enrolled for degree will have not yet completed by 2020.

The New Times has learnt that since September last year, Umwalimu Sacco suspended giving loans to teachers who do not show their degrees in education.

They were only allowed to request loans to be paid back not later than December 31, 2019 ahead of the deadline to phase out unqualified teachers.

Some long serving teachers have also asked for in house training courses at schools to complement their experience and skills in teaching instead of being dismissed.

Ministry responds

Isaac Munyakazi, the State Minister in charge of Primary and Secondary Education told The New Times that all issues will be examined since government wrote to Umwalimu Sacco facilitate teachers to get loans at low interest rate so that can enrol for degrees in education.

He said that any decision preventing them from accessing loans might be wrong.

"Having no degree in education should not be the condition to refuse giving them loans that aim at helping them to acquire the qualifications that we need. Those who have complaints should come and we discuss them. I know well that Umwalimu Sacco was given a letter to continue providing services to those teachers," he said.

Efforts to reach the officials of Umwalimu Sacco were unsuccessful as they did not respond to our calls and text messages.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

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