TVETs to start offering bachelor degrees in selected fields

Students from Rwanda’s Integrated Polytechnic Regional Colleges (IPRCs) as well as former graduates now stand a chance to advance their education following an announcement by government that technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges will also be offering Bachelor of Technology (BTech) qualifications.

Rwanda has eight IPRCs which are tasked with producing a workforce ready for the labour market. The colleges offer hands-on skills and entrepreneurship, among others, and operate under the Rwanda Polytechnic.

However, graduates from the IPRCs have been complaining that they could not compete in the labour market where bachelor degrees are often required. They said that, sometimes, they could work under someone else’s supervision, often university graduates, and that their earnings, compared to others in the labour market, were meagre.

Speaking during the National Dialogue on Monday, 27 February, Prime Minister Dr Edouard Ngirente said that the government was planning to introduce the ‘Bachelor of Technology’ in all IPRCs in March.

Ngirente said that, in March, the qualification will be in two technical colleges, namely IPRC Huye and IPRC Kigali, and the programme could be extended in other IPRCs by September 2023. Initially, graduates who meet the criteria may return to study for BTech degrees. The offering may later be expanded to other categories of students.

This emerged as part of Rwanda’s National Dialogue also known as Umushyikirano, a home-grown initiative whereby top government officials meet annually to discuss issues affecting the national development and ways to handle them.

The premier noted that there are also plans to reinforce the partnership between schools and the government as well as the private sector to facilitate students in acquiring practical skills in industrial attachment.

Claudette Irere, the minister of state in charge of ICT and TVET, said the BTech in construction technology will be introduced in IPRC Huye in the Southern province while IPRC Kigali will host BTech in automotive technology.

Who is eligible?

Rwanda Polytechnic has identified automotive technology and construction technology as emerging areas because of technological changes in these fields, according to officials. These areas will, therefore, be prioritised.

According to a circular released by the Rwanda Polytechnic, the BTech programmes are set to enable graduates to function at various levels in the workplace, from shop floor technologies to management.

“The course work, bringing together technology and innovation, along with mandatory-based work experiences, will bestow students with advanced skills to make technology and innovation decisions in an industry-based context,” stated the circular.

The two programmes will start with candidates who had already graduated from IPRCs or from similar institutions – with equivalency or recognition from Rwanda’s Higher Education Council.

Graduates returning to colleges to further their education should have at least three years of experience working in relevant fields or in IPRCs, according to a circular.

Students welcome the initiative

Claudine Muhawenimana, a second-year student in electrical technology from IPRC Huye is very excited about the new BTech programme.

“I am very excited that IPRC graduates will have a chance to upgrade [their qualifications] from diplomas to degrees. It was always a hindrance, and our brothers and sisters have been complaining that, sometimes, they are not fit for the workforce,” she said.

With BTech, according to her, she will have the skills to work at a level higher than that of being a technician at lower or field level.

A good idea, but ...

According to Professor Silas Lwakabamba, the regional managing director, Coventry Africa Hub, who is also a former education minister and former rector of the former National University of Rwanda and the former Kigali Institute of Science and Technology, said: “It’s not a bad idea [to offer a BTech] but they have to produce technicians in the proportion that is required by the labour market and [then] maybe a few who might be able to achieve the bachelor degree.”

“But, normally, polytechnics should produce more technicians [rather] than first-degree graduates. If they produce enough technicians, then I think they can upgrade to the bachelor degrees,” he added.