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Rwanda: School Fees Controversies Escalate as Academic Year Resumes

by Williams Buningwire
10:57 am

School reopening will be gradual and in adherence to COVID-19 measures.

Boarding students will start traveling back to school to kick off the second term effective Thursday, October 29.

This concludes the seven-month period after the suspension that intended to contain the spread of  Covid-19 pandemic on 16th March.

However, the alleged ‘unnecessary’ increase of school fees for the second term among private schools due to reported price hikes for food commodities has created a stiff disagreement between parents and school owners.

The chairman of the association of private schools in Rwanda, Jean Marie Vianney Usengumuremyi says that school fees were increased following the increased prices for food items on the market, and the period which students will spend at school that is unusual.

“The second term has five months that means an additional two months from the usual three. Consider the food prices on the market. One kilogram of beans costs Rwf1000 from Rwf600 seven months ago. Go to maize flour, one kilogram costs an average of Rwf900 from about Rwf700 in the previous 7 months, and tell me why private schools should not increase fees,” Usengumuremyi said during ubyumva ute, KT Radio’s program on Tuesday 27.

According to Sandra Kayitesi, one of the parents, some private schools nearly doubled the school fees to pay in the second term.

Parents said, that the increment was done without their consent.

“We did not sit with the school’s management to discuss the increment. The school where my children study from is taking advantage because it is the only secondary school that offers a rare program in the country. We are just wondering how school fees can almost double without parents’ consent,” Jane Uwingabire another parent complained.

“We have parent-teachers associations, but the school management never engages parents; they take decisions and implement them without our consent.”

Uwingabire argued that the school recently sent them letters but they were not backed by any explanation on the recent increment of school fees.

“I think the Ministry of education should conduct regular supervision in our private schools if we are to get value for money,” she said.

Despite this suggestion, private schools do not agree with the idea that the Ministry of education should check closely the school fees issues because “it’s not in their mandate.”

“The ministry of education should not be involved in the issues of private schools increasing school fees; it is a government institution and should not interfere in private businesses. Before registering children at any private school, parents should first analyze and check their budget.”

He suggested that the ministry can only do an inspection on whether private schools are delivering quality education to students.

“There is no logic for the ministry of education to direct any owner of a private school not to increase school fees, this is misleading people. Schools offer educational services because education is an investment like any others,” Usengumuremyi added.

The Ministry of education indeed agrees that school fees in private schools is a business between school owners and parents, but the ministry cannot sit back when parents are complaining.

“We are a government entity and we are not interfering with business, but parents and private schools should agree on whether increasing school fees or not. We are advising schools not to increase fees,” Flavia Seraphine, Ministry of education communication specialist said.

Flavia further said “The inspection will be conducted on school fees hikes where we shall advise school owners to return fees to normal, but officials will also inspect how preparations to reopen has been done. We are all aiming at teaching Rwandan children and private schools shouldn’t increase fees to an extent that scares parents.”

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