Rwanda Today has established that major public schools in the country increased fees by between Rwf8,000 and Rwf20,000, pushing the cost of education much higher for struggling poor parents.
The development follows a decision by the ministry to divert part of its funding to schools so as to support the school feeding programme in 9-12-year education schools.
Last year, the issue came to the attention of the Finance Ministry, with Minister Claver Gatete reportedly warning Mineduc officials that the decision could, if not properly thought out, have negative implications.
However, as the new academic year begins, the much-disputed change has forced public schools to increase fees while others are considering convening parents’ meetings to discuss the increment.
“We only increased fees by Rwf9,000 for new students joining senior one and S4 as we plan to hold a parents meeting on March 5 to decide the increment,” said Sr M Goretti Umugwaneza, head of Lycee de Zaza, a public secondary school in Eastern Province.
“If we don’t get the money, students will hardly have food, for Mineduc’s decision came as a surprise when we had not notified parents of a possible change in the fees structure.”
Rwanda Today understands that Mineduc was paying Rwf156 per student per day which, according to school managers, is spent on three meals the student takes at school. The total funding is Rwf9,000 per student per school term, which many educators consider too little and not proportionate to the situation on the market.
Sources say ministry officials decided to stop part of the funding, leaving a student feeding on only Rwf56 as the rest of the fund is used in feeding students from poor families in 9-12-year day schools.
The majority of school authorities, parents and educators are however confused by the changes, with some boarding public schools passing the burden to parents by way of hiking fees while others said they are yet to be issued with the directive to follow.
A spot check by this newspaper revealed that urban public schools raised fees the most, by as much as Rwf20,000, while most rural schools made an increase ranging from Rwf8,000 to Rwf11,000.
While parents sending their children to Lycee Notre Dame de Citeaux in Kigali saw the fees go up from Rwf60,000 to Rwf90,000 in the new academic year, TTC Save in Southern Province augmented fees from Rwf68,000 to Rwf76,500 while Groupe Scolaire Shyogwe raised theirs from Rwf54,300 to Rwf65,300.
Hundreds of affected parents were seen queuing in banks days after other students had headed to school for the new academic year that started on February 1 in blatant rush to pay for their children. Those who could not raise the fees have had to accompany their children to school to plead with the authorities to pay the fees in installments.
Jerome Sebaganje, 55, from Rugera Sector in Nyabihu District on Monday accompanied one of his six school-going children to a school in Gicumbi since he could not immediately get the required Rwf91,100.
“It’s particularly hard for me because one of my children dropped out while in senior five, I could no longer be able to pay for them all,” said Mr Sebaganje, protesting the increase in school fees. “If they fees continue going up, I don’t think I will be able to educate this one unless I get government help.”
In addition to paying Rwf64,000 in school fees, parents at Lycee de Zaza have been footing the bills of two school projects — construction of a Rwf150 million multipurpose hall and removal of asbestos roofs, which will cost Rwf82 million.
Parents will now be required to pay an additional Rwf9,000, taking the fees to Rwf73,000, and Rwf13,000 in the two projects, school officials said.
“Now imagine telling parents that they must pay more money,” Sr Umugwaneza said.
The nun’s sentiments were echoed by Fr J Bosco Mupenzi, head of Groupe Scolaire St Joseph Birambo, a rural secondary school in Karongi, Western Province, who said rural poor parents could find it hard to maintain children in school.
“For us challenges are many because very few parents here can raise the required Rwf57,000,” said Fr Mupenzi.