‘If you miss a deadline, you repeat a year,’ students hear

A group of final-year students at the University of Rwanda’s College of Education have clashed with the institution’s administrators because they have to repeat their last academic year after missing a crucial deadline.

Whereas students blame poor communication and connectivity problems for their predicament, the college’s administrators are standing firm that they will apply regulations to the letter and will not tolerate any negligence from students.

In dispute is whether students completed internships and submitted their reports from employers on time. The internship is an academic requirement for final-year students to be allowed to graduate. Teaching students practise an extensive six-month internship in schools where they teach subjects related to those they are pursuing at university.

A student, who did not want to be named, explained: “After we completed all [our] courses, we were sent to do our internships. Students, each one individually, had to seek a school where they could apply their acquired skills by teaching courses,” she said.

As part of the experiential learning, each student had to provide an ‘observation report’ via a provided link. The report, according to sources, could allow school managers to know the location of students and to plan supervision exercises.

“We did not know the link was shared and some of us faced connectivity issues. The time to report [on the internship] lapsed before the report was shared,” she added.

“I, personally, heard about the link after the deadline. We tried to explain to the college management, but in vain. However, we have reports from the schools where we conducted our internships,” she added, pointing out that the report can be used as proof that the internship was conducted.

According to the college, students from the college’s department of physics failed to meet the requirements as stipulated by the internal rules and regulations and are, therefore, responsible for the problem. The subsequent decision has been that they have to wait until the next academic year to redo the internship before they graduate.

Petitioning the ombud’s office

The students have contacted various institutions, including the ministry of education and the higher education council but, so far, the responses they have received were that they have to comply with the college decision.

Without any positive feedback, the students resolved to petition the office of the ombudsman, a public anti-injustice and anti-corruption institution.

“We felt we were victims of a misunderstanding between us and the college. We hope that we could get justice from the office of the ombudsman and we wrote a petition.

“We are still optimistic that it will be possible [to graduate],” said another affected student, who also preferred not to be named. However, the office of the ombudsman is yet to issue any directive about the students’ plea.

A violation of rules

According to Dr Florien Nsanganwimana, the principal of the University of Rwanda College of Education, the concerned students did not follow the rules and regulations of the college and were considered as having dodged the academic internship.

“The students violated the college’s rules and regulations. They were aware that they had to share arrival forms within two weeks so that we could conduct assessment. This did not happen and it meant they did not conduct internship,” he told University World News.

“So we decided to apply the rules and regulations. There was no other decision than to redo the year,” he said.

“We are not happy to cancel the graduation of affected students, but we cannot tolerate the negligence of students. That is why they have to comply with the rules and regulations, [and in enforcing them] we should not be dominated by emotions,” noted the principal.

According to Ignatius Kabagambe, the spokesperson of the University of Rwanda, all colleges have internal rules and regulations, and students should, under no circumstances, violate them.

“The decision taken by the college is genuine and should not be compromised. Students should not violate the rules and regulations and [then] think … repeating the year is harsh,” he said.

An injustice?

According to Emmanuel Safari, the executive secretary of CLADHO, the acronym for the French name of an umbrella grouping of human rights organisations, students should not claim that their rights have been violated as they are the ones who failed to comply with rules and regulations of the university.

“I think the students know well [what] the rules and regulations from the university [are] as regards to conducting internship as an academic requirement. They should not violate them and hope all will go well,” he said, stressing that students should be aware of internal rules and regulations.

“If the students didn’t follow the procedures, they have to deal with the consequences. The college had to apply what is stipulated in [their rules] unless the students were not informed before about the procedures, which I don’t think is the case,” he said.