Friday, 26 April 2013

Education of private coaching students hangs in balance


A private candidate sits a previous national examination.
Rwanda Education Board (REB) has stuck to its position insisting that centres preparing candidates for the end of high school national exams must not reopen until they fulfil all the requirements.

The instructions issued on April 17, by REB Director General John Rutayisire, bar the centres from enrolling students other than those candidates to coach for only a year before registering them for exams.

The operation of the centres has been a bone of contention, following the nullification of the results of more than 500 of last year’s candidates who studied there, over alleged exam cheating. The students were advised to re-register this year.

The centres were ordered to register with Rwanda Development Board, and then contact REB and the officials in charge of education at  the district level before reopening. 

In addition, heads of centres were ordered to submit to REB the full identification of the students they are training.

“A private candidate coaching centre cannot be permitted to operate within the premises of an existing public or governmental aided school,” says the directives posted on REB website. 

“The government invests much in constructing these premises. Private candidates coaching centers should not use them freely. It is cheating,” said Rutayisire. He advised private students to either  hire teachers to coach them from home, enroll for e-learning or join the nine year education programme.

Mathias Harebamungu, the Minister of State in charge of Primary and Secondary Education, said the directives aim at streamlining the operations of private candidates coaching centres in the country to safeguard students.

However, the centre owners and students are up in arms against the directives. 

The decision affects about 13 centres.

In  separate interviews with The New Times, some centres’ owners and students said the instructions are not favourable to them.

They argue that the regulations are not clear on when to start and even who to report to if one meets the requirements.

“I’m happy at least private candidates coaching centres have not been closed indefinitely. But still I’m confused because the new regulations are not clear on who fulfils what, when to start and even who to report to if one is done with the requirements,” said  Augustin Ntaganda, who owns a centre, called APECD (Association for Promotion of Education and Community Development), in Kigali.
Futile attempts 

Ntaganda, whose centre has been coaching students since 1999, also questions whether he would be compensated for the lost money.

He claimed he has lost more than Rwf10 million in rent of the premises he operated from ever since REB ordered them to close.

He added that his efforts to seek more explanation have been futile even after several visits to REB and the Ministry of Education.

Fidel Harerimana, in charge of studies at Club Spik, another private candidate centre in Kigali, said the school committee would sit to chart the way forward.

Annick Rutegemana, one of the affected students, said she was still puzzled because she cannot manage fulltime studies with her part time job.

She said she recently returned from Zambia and currently works in a restaurant.

The student claimed she completed senior six in Zambia but has no certificate to show, the reason she enrolled for private candidate classes.

“It’s like I am stuck. Well, I can join formal schools but I cannot afford to raise fees if I cannot work during day as I used to do,” Rutegemana, 19, said, criticising the idea of asking the coaching centres to admit only S.6 candidates.

Christine Nyirasafari, 42, another Senior Four affected student at Club Spik, said she was not sure whether she would continue with studies if the private centres admit only candidates.

Nyirasafari had dropped out of school in 1991 before resuming.

Nyirasafari works in stationery shop during day and studies in the evening.

“Studying for one year cannot help me at all. You cannot combine a three years course into one and be confident of passing an exam. Its like we people who had dropped out of school many years ago and wanted to upgrade our skills are not likely to do so,” Nyirasafari said.

According to the ministry, students who are affected by the new regulations are advised to join formal schools or catchup schools for those not qualified to join formal schools.

However, education officials said people who had completed primary education cannot be enrolled under catch-up school programme. 

“Catch-up programme works in primary schools to help street children who had dropped out of school. There is no such a programme in secondary schools,” Jean Pierre Habimana, Kicukiro district education officer, told The New Times.

On the directive requiring private candidates coaching centres to build own premises, Jean de Dieu Niyonsenga, Director of Sainte Famille Primary School, one of the government aided-schools said: “There has not been any problem for private candidates using our classroom because their classes start after ours are done.”

To be registered as a private candidate for national exams, one should have spent at least five years out of school after completing O’Level with justification, pay Rwf15,000 in Rwanda Revenue Authority, and present to the REB staff receipts to acquire a candidate’s form.


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