Adult students want night classes to improve qualifications

The recent introduction of several new Bachelor of Technology (BTech) qualifications by Rwanda Polytechnic, a public technical higher education institution, has given diploma holders the opportunity to upskill, but working adults, who are a key group of potential beneficiaries, have raised concerns about the accessibility of the programmes.

The new BTech programmes, set to commence on 25 October for the 2023-24 academic year, reflect the institution’s commitment to offer flexibility to a diverse student population. At the same time the programmes aim to produce graduates with strong technological and innovative capabilities.

Rwanda Polytechnic’s (RP) new programmes also align with Rwanda’s ambition to transition into a knowledge-based economy, with expectations for a significant socio-economic transformation by 2035. To achieve this vision, the country has recognised the role of a well-trained workforce that can drive its development agenda.

The technical and vocational education and training (TVET) sector has been identified as crucial in producing a skilled workforce for the challenges Rwanda is facing.

Access to programmes

Former graduates, who earned diplomas, have been facing challenges in the labour market as many employers required higher qualified workers. They are eager to enrol to enhance their employment prospects.

However, challenges remain, as all the BTech programmes will be offered during the day. The potential group of adult working students wonder how they will manage day courses and work, once admitted. They have subsequently called on the authorities to revise the policy and allow evening and weekend programmes as well.

Said Eduard Yizihirwe, who graduated in the field of construction eight years ago: “It was a challenge to get a better job because we had diplomas while employers requested a Bachelor of Technology [degree] to land a good job. I am eager to start a BTech and, hopefully, I will complete it and secure a better job.”

Yizihirwe is contemplating whether he should resign from his job and enrol for a day programme.

“It is very challenging to enrol in a daytime programme, as I have a full-time job. We have asked the government to also consider evening programmes and we for their feedback. This will allow us to enrol. It is hard to resign, as I have a family to take care of,” added Yizihirwe, a father of two.

Similar sentiments have been echoed by Eric Rusakara, a mechanical engineering graduate who runs a garage in Kigali. “Very few people would decide to resign from their jobs and join a day programme. It would be wise if the colleges [were to] think about weekend programmes as well as evening courses,” he said.

Professor Richard Musabe, the deputy vice-chancellor of academics, research, and institutional advancement at Rwanda Polytechnic, acknowledges the importance of adequate resources to support the expansion of technical faculties.

He said the priorities at this time are more resources and qualified lecturers to offer the new qualifications rather than evening programmes.

However, while RP has introduced daytime programmes for the time being, Musabe said they are committed to plans for evening and weekend programmes in the future to accommodate the needs of working professionals and those with other responsibilities.

What are the new programmes?

A total of five BTech programmes will be offered across five Integrated Polytechnic Regional Colleges (IPRCs).

They include BTech qualifications in manufacturing technology at the IPRC Ngoma in the Eastern Province, wood technology at IPRC Kitabi in the Southern Province, electrical technology at IPRC Musanze in Northern Province, food processing at IPRC Musanze and information technology at IPRC Tumba, both in the Northern Province.

These will complement two BTech programmes that Rwanda Polytechnic introduced in March 2023, namely automobile technology and construction technology, currently hosted at two colleges, IPRC Kigali and Huye respectively.

Prior to the introduction of the BTech programmes in March, the institution offered Advanced Diploma Certificates (A1) which limited graduates’ access to jobs that required higher-level qualifications.