Laptop distribution stopped as students allegedly sell them

Students from the University of Rwanda (UR) are in a dilemma after the university halted the distribution of laptops meant to contribute to smooth learning and boost the quality of academics.

The UR started distributing the laptops to eligible students as a repayable loan in September 2023. Beneficiaries are students who normally receive the government scholarship as they come from poor families. They service the loan once they secure jobs or start generating income after completion. As part of the loan, the government earlier pledged laptops as additional loans to boost the learning process and facilitate other academic facilities, a move lauded by both students and academic staff.

To implement the exercise, the University of Rwanda started the distribution of new laptops to students in September and students from three of the university’s six colleges have acquired the devices.

However, at the end of October, the distribution suddenly stopped, apparently because some students have been reselling the devices.

On 13 November, the university announced on X: “We understand the curiosity about the resumption of laptop distribution. Rest assured, an official announcement regarding the timeline for the distribution will follow after the graduation ceremony. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.”

Laptop scheme aims to ease learning

“The University of Rwanda informs all the students who received laptops under the laptop loan scheme that physical verification of distributed laptops will be conducted at the Nyarugenge, Remera, Gikondo, and Busogo campuses,” according to a circular signed by Professor Didas Kayihura Muganga, the university’s vice-chancellor.

The circular said that the government of Rwanda prioritised the current laptop scheme for students’ programmes as part of its overarching strategy to enhance access to education.

Students who are yet to receive the laptops have raised concerns over the delays, saying they should not be penalised for errors or misdeeds committed by others.

“We are in a dilemma as the process to give us laptops has been halted,” said a student identified only as Niyonkuru. “The university has promised us to get laptops, but it says that we have to wait as it inspects the ones who got them. It should be treated separately as not all who get laptops intend to sell them off,” he added.

A third-year student said: “We have fulfilled all the requirements, and we don’t understand why we have to wait. We need this issue to be solved as soon as possible. We need to use the laptops in research and other learning activities.”

Guilty students face sanctions

It is expected that at least 38,000 students from both the UR and Rwanda Polytechnic will benefit from the scheme, according to official figures.

According to Ignatius Kabagambe, head of corporate communications and spokesman of UR, it came to the university’s attention that students who acquired laptops have deviated from the agreement and started selling them.

He noted that students who are found guilty will face sanctions “in accordance with policies governing study loans”. Kabagambe said that, in collaboration with the laptop supplier, a new batch of laptops will be made available after the completion of the checks, which will be ongoing. It is not known when the university will resume distribution.

Not enough equipment

For IT experts, providing laptops to university students is a positive move as it eases the learning process and enables students to work when they want and need to. Dr Alfred Uwitonze, dean of the ICT department at UR’s College of Sciences and Technology, said resuming the provision of laptops is long overdue.

He told University World News in an earlier interview: “It is very important to provide laptops to needy students. Students who do not have laptops can hardly perform well in classes as the university does not have enough ICT-equipped labs to accommodate all the students.

“Besides, students who have laptops can access online resources and learn independently without depending on physical classes. They can easily carry out their own research to complement their studies and use the laptops to keep notes and ensure they revise any time they wish.”