By RNA Reporters   


President Kagame (left above) on Thursday tried to cool down the temperatures on NUR Rector Prof. Lwakabamba
 Kigali: Little did President Kagame know that his critical comments at the National University of Rwanda (NUR) would raise a storm that he has been forced to clarify his position, RNA reports.

On August 22, Mr. Kagame did not hide his frustration over the worrying quality of education provided at the increasing number of high institutions of learning. Despite the presence of students and other government officials, university dons – at least from the quiet mummers believed the President was targeting them.

Mr. Kagame said the private sector – which drives economies were having trouble sourcing for competent staff. He also said students who have been sent abroad have often been given starter-courses by the receiving universities to bring them up to scale with others.  

« I was told that some of the graduates we have here cannot even express themselves or write a simple application letter,” Mr. Kagame said.

Information coming from the southern province-based institution indicates that the students welcomed the President’s comments with the understanding that the lecturers are to blame. However, the teaching academics, who have petitioned Mr. Kagame several times for a salary increment, were not impressed, according to available information.

The university Rector Prof Silas Lwakabamba is said to have been under heavy pressure as some of the senior academics silently started bitterly complaining. RNA has been told that top dons have been demanding to know why government is not ready to provide the requirements to the lecturers but is quick to apportion blame.

On Thursday, while addressing Parliament, the President clarified that his comments were meant for all stakeholders including parents, students, government officials and the teachers. “Some people apparently interpreted my comments as meant for teachers only. That was not the case”, he said in Kinyarwanda.

Mr. Kagame was presiding over the swearing-in of two new senators, Ms. Umulisa Henriette and Prof. Jose Kagabo.  

The National University of Rwanda remains a hotbed of silent discontent with government. At some point, there were growing suggestions among students and teaching staff that plans were underway to equip the standards of the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) – started by Prof. Lwakabamba, such that it takes over the profile of NUR.  

Matters were compounded when government changed the University Act around 2003 making the Minister of Education the Chancellor of all Universities instead of the President. From this point on, the President rarely visited the National University of Rwanda, but would appear at functions organized by KIST and other institutions in Kigali.
During this period, current head of the electoral commission Prof. Chrysologue Karangwa was the Rector, after replacing Dr. Emile Rwamasirabo, who until recently was ambassador in Japan. When Prof. Lwakabamba was named rector in June 2006, Prof Karangwa was moved to KIST, in cabinet changes observers believed were meant to have NUR reorganized.

And indeed Prof. Lwakabamba introduced some of the most controversial policies. He ended a decades-long practice of holding public defense for bachelor degree research. The guild elections of the same year were annulled by the rector after it emerged that the polls were marred with ethnic connotations, and allegations that political parties were also becoming active in the NUR elections.

Like his management at KIST had been marked by large numbers of foreign teaching staff with very high salaries, Prof. Lwakabamba brought the same situation to NUR to the excitement of students but dismay of his dons. Both of his deputies were to be foreigners later, as government opened up the labour market to competitive bidding.

The climax of growing unhappiness with the flow of events came last year when the language of instruction was shifted from largely French to English. The French-speaking lecturers say the policy – though with positive motivations, looked liked it was targeting them.     

The decades-old policy of appointing faculty heads has also been phased out – allowing for open bidding for these highly lucrative posts. However, spirited resistance forced Prof Lwakabamba and his planners to stay with a requirement that heads of faculties are Rwandan.

With the introduction of this system, it has become common at NUR as some department have deputies who are foreigners. The local teaching staff, according to some, see this as rebuke of their capabilities.

Mid last year, embattled former education state Minister Theoneste Mutsindashyaka found himself in a bitter confrontation with students after he reportedly undermined them. Reports said at the time that some students walked out of the auditorium as he spoke. Those who stayed after Prof Lwakabamba pleaded with them would boo the minister whenever he spoke. It is said that such attitudes from senior government officials seemed reflective of how the central government views NUR.    

President Kagame recently named Dr. Charles Muligande, another controversial face at NUR, as education minister. Dr. Muligande was the second post 1994 Rector and is remembered for ordering that all lecturers start using computers or they halt their services.

Furious objections from the largely old and highly educated dons left Dr. Murigande with a very frosty relationship with the academics until he was moved – replaced with soft-spoken, and not-combative Dr. Rwamasirabo.


Posté par