Private Schools Closing Down as Public Schools Boom- Rwanda

Groupe Scolaire de Musange, a private secondary school in Nyamagabe district, Southern Rwanda is now a cattle grazing ground. Classrooms have turned into cowsheds.

The private school is just one of the tens of other schools that have closed due to accumulated debts, tax arrears and bank loans.
Rose Mukamana, who worked as a secretary there, says by 2012, the number of students had decreased to 300 from 1000 and teachers had not been paid. The school had loan arrears worth Rwf100m.

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“The Baptiste Church School opted to close to avoid accumulation of more debts,” says Munyamasoko Gato Corneille, the church’s chairman. Another private school, out of the remaining 46 schools across the country, has also closed.

The chairman of the association of private schools in Rwanda, Jean Marie Vianney Usengumuremyi, says at least 20 schools have closed in two years. Hundreds of others have only a handful of students and are likely to close soon.

KT Press has learnt that about 200 private schools in Rwanda largely rely on students with government scholarships. Majority of other students enroll into public schools where education is free.

Last year, 19% of the national budget, Rwf182.6b (US$260m) was allocated to education. Over 60%, largely donor funded, was for the program. Rwf14b (US$20m) was spent on the construction of 2,679 classrooms, increasing – enrollment by 49%.

Every student is entitled to a book for every subject. Over 250,000 free laptops, each costing $200, have been distributed to 450 public schools.

Private schools blame this program for their collapse.

“You cannot operate next to a school where education is free and expect to compete,” says Narcisse Mudahinyuka, the director of GS ESPANYA, a school founded in 1980. The school has lost 1000 students in three years.

Another school, GS Scolaire Aceper, had no new students enroll this year.

The association of private schools has appealed to government to save them. “We want to partner with the government to use our idle classrooms and equipment,” says Usengumuremyi.

The Prime Minister has tasked Jerome Gasana, the Director General of Workforce Development Authority (WDA), to look into the deal.

Despite many private schools in the rural areas closing, those in urban areas are thriving.

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