Education curriculum in Rwanda stipulates that students should contribute 70 per cent to their studies and teachers should only guide and supervise. Students are usually supposed to comply with this curriculum by carrying further research on their own and this is where internet access becomes a basic need for them.
However, over 8,000 students accommodated at one of the biggest campuses in the University of Rwanda, Huye campus, decry the poor connectivity to the internet.
Faridi Muhawenimana is a final year student. He has been struggling to connect to the wider world on the internet ever since he joined the campus.
"We are usually given studying materials that fully need the internet. They are supposed to help us understand and comply with the curriculum, but it is a challenge instead. How are we expected to be competitive ?" he wondered.
According to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Strategic Planning and Administration at the University of Rwanda, Papias Musafiri, the wired internet that is installed in the library and IT labs cannot satisfy the demand of thousands of students, so when it is overloaded, it stops working. The wireless internet, on the other hand, has picky hours and filters. It cannot be used during class hours and cannot open specific content.
A student who recently joined the campus in Business and Information Technology told The New Times that "he was shocked to have to struggle to access the most basic tool of an IT student".
"The only alternative here is to buy our own internet and students are mostly cash-strapped. If you cannot afford it, then your performance is affected," he told The New Times under anonymity condition.
Efforts to find a solution
Dr Musafiri disclosed that the university is discussing with Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA) and Broad System Corporation (BSC) to broaden the bandwidth that can correspond with the increasing number of students.
"The university knows how serious the problem is. We are trying to discuss with partners to see whether the bandwidth can be expanded," he explained.
He, however, added that students tend to misuse the already insufficient internet by browsing content unrelated to academics. The issue propelled UR to block some content and social media to direct students to academic-related content.
On the same note, however, Christian, who is finalizing his studies and needs to do extensive researches, disagrees.
"You cannot specify how exactly every one of the 8000 students study, social media and other sites can also be tools of learning," he said.
In November 2018, over 3,000 students were relocated from different campuses to Huye. The relocation, according to the officials, was made to revive Huye city. The University also has plans to relocate more students to Huye campus, according to Dr Musafiri. Will the internet ever be sufficient with the increasing number of students?
To answer that, Musafiri stressed that "the internet is like money, can hardly be fully sufficient," he said but added that the university was trying to address the issue.