Rwanda: Ubudehe Struck Off List of Varsity Scholarship Criteria

16 January 2020

Starting this year, Ubudehe social stratification, will not be considered for eligibility of a scholarship for university students, according to officials from Higher Education Council (HEC).

Ubudehe is a stratification programme where families are classified in accordance to their economic status.

The same categories were applied in awarding scholarships to university students where the lower the category for the student's family, the higher the chances for their eligibility for scholarship.

The development, education experts argue, will help address the issue of exclusion that varsity students were facing due to lack of tuition.

The announcement was made by Theoneste Ndikubwimana, Head of Department in charge of quality education and standards at Higher Education Council (HEC), during an exclusive interview with The New Times.

The new academic year for University of Rwanda begins in September.

The criteria had earlier been challenged by many, including some government officials.

For years, there have been complaints by students, arguing that their families were put in the wrong categories which do not match their level of wealth, hence being denied scholarships since they cannot afford tuition.

The same issue came up in December last year during the National Umushyikirano Council when a primary school teacher, Theodosie Uwihirwe, lamented her ordeal, saying that teachers like her were placed in category three, which locks their children out of the scholarship scheme.

"I would like to request that Ubudehe categorisation be removed as one of the conditions based on to offer a student bursary but, instead, award scholarships to students based on the area of study and marks they attained," she said.

Contacted for a comment, Leo Mugabe, the coordinator of Rwanda Education for all Coalition (REFAC), a civil society organisation, welcomed the news noting that it is fair.

He added that the criteria was flawed since it denied underprivileged brilliant students an opportunity to pursue further studies based on the assumption that they come from 'able' families.

"We are very happy because Ubudehe categories have nothing to do with education. One pays Rwf1, 000,000 for one academic year. Very few families can afford that amount," he said.

The tuition fee for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programmes at the University of Rwanda is Rwf1.5 million per year and Rwf600, 000 for non-STEM programmes.

During the selection of beneficiaries to scholarship loans for higher learning, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects are prioritised.

Besides Ubudehe, Rose Mukankomeje, the Director General, HEC, pointed out that the other two considerations are attaining the required pass grade by the University and subjects in which a student is going to pursue.

She added that the final criteria will be announced after the total number of students getting into the University is known.

According to 2019 statistics 11,853 students received government scholarships to join the University of Rwanda. With a total of 7850 in the STEM discipline and 4003 non-STEM.

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