Last week, students of the University of Rwanda, mainly those from the College of Medicine and Health Sciences, told The New Times complained about a delay in disbursing their monthly subsistence allowances, which they said was affecting their studies.
Following this, the Higher Education Council (HEC) has admitted that there was an issue in disbursing students' allowances, but going forward, all students will start receiving their allowances effective immediately.
Dr Emmanuel Muvunyi, HEC's Executive Director told The New Times on Tuesday that delay was a result of the change in the academic calendar at the university.
"UR adopted an innovative approach and this meant adding extra practical activities, especially to students from medicine and health sciences. This saw them spend an extra month at school, while previously students spent 10 months in school," he explained.
"For example, if you study pharmacy you would spend an extra month at any pharmacy, and if you pursue dentistry or nursing you would spend the last month of the year at a clinic, hospital or school laboratory," he added.
However, the Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD), which is in charge of disbursing the funds, was not instructed to pay allowances for 11 months, rather 10 months in each academic year.
At the beginning of the current academic year (2018/2019), the University found it necessary to extend practical sessions for a period of over one month into the third trimester of the academic year.
As such, students deserved an extra month of living allowances to enable them attend the practical sessions during the extended period.
Muvunyi said that a consultative meeting between BRD, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, UR as well as other stakeholders, met and agreed to avail extra living allowances to students whose academic activities were increased.
The meeting directed BRD to immediately disburse allowances to students' bank accounts.
According to HEC, the decision to award an extra month's allowance only applies to students who follow UR structured residential programmes delivered on its campuses and other designated teaching places.
The total number of students in CMHS to benefit from this additional month living allowances is 3,304, 1,053 of these students study in the School of Medicine and Pharmacy offering General Medicine, Clinical Psychology, and Pharmacy.
1,238 study in the School of Nursing and Midwifery offering General Nursing, Midwifery and Mental Health Nursing.
580 study in the School of Health Sciences, offering Physiotherapy, Anesthesia, Ophthalmology, Medical Imaging Science, Occupational Therapy, Clinical Medicine & Community Health, Biomedical Laboratory Sciences, and Orthopedic Technology.
238 studying in the School of Public Health, offering Human Nutrition and Dietetics, and Environmental Health Sciences, and 195 studying in the School of Dentistry offering Dental Surgery and Dental Therapy.
Essentially, the change in the academic learning activities is part of the reforms that UR has been undertaking to enhance the quality of education.
Muvunyi highlighted that HEC was planning to deliberations with UR to streamline the innovative approach which was changed for students to fully benefit from practical learning.
"One of the challenges is that practical exposure has been lacking. We are going to discuss with UR on how to work better to improve practical academic activities to make it more structured," he noted.
This would allow students, especially those pursuing medicine and health sciences, to be equipped with hands-on skills, which has been previously inadequate in their programme.