On 5th February 2015, Prof. James Alexander McWha , Vice Chancelor of the University of Rwanda(UR) visited UR Huye campus to discuss with staff members on campus life and working conditions. He was flanked by both Deputy Vice Chancelor for Academic Affairs and Research and the Deputy Vice Chancelor for Finance and Administration.
In his welcome remarks, Dr. Simeon Wiehler, Acting Principal of the College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) who doubles as Ag. Resident Principal of UR Huye commended the senior management of the university for their visit since it is an opportunity for staff members to exchange face to face with these officials on the way of improving services in order to take the university to the next level.
The Vice Chancelor while opening the meeting, he stated that such a meeting is a platform whereby staff members exchange ideas with the top management in a way that some issues can be addressed immediately.
MAJOR ISSUES RAISED BY STAFF MEMBERS.
NEW STRUCTURE OF UNIVERSITY OF RWANDA
The Vice Chancellor informed UR Huye staff that the structure will be well defined after the University gets autonomy status. He added the autonomy adoption is expected in the coming 3 months if no change. According to this official, many problems that staff are facing regarding job security will be sorted out as soon as UR’s autonomy is adopted.
DECENTRALIZATION OF POWERS
The current administrative system whereby mainly solutions are taken at the central level was also presented as a hindrance to academic life. For instance, mission clearances and management of schools’ projects funded by external partners. With regard to the topic of mission clearance, the Vice Chancelor noted that internal mission clearances are addressed at the College level but the policy on mission stipulates that abroad missions have to be cleared by the office of Vice Chancelor. He said: “I think we have an advantage at University of Rwanda since other institutions’ staff members get mission clearances from office of Prime Minister. This exercise is taken seriously by the government for the purpose of documentation. In this regard we report every 3 months on missions to explain the importance of each mission and budget implications”.
Concerning access to schools joint bank accounts with donors, the Vice Chancelor for Administration and Finance noted that before 01 July 2014 when UR started using its first budget, there were many communications geared to explain why projects’ bank accounts have to be closed. “One reason we closed those accounts was that there were almost 76 bank accounts attached to the former institutions that merged into UR which is very difficult to manage. Secondary, legally speaking those accounts can’t be operational since the former institutions no longer exist for instance there is no ISAE today but you could find a bank account called ISAE-NUFFIC. Thirdly, we have to follow aid policy according to the Ministry of Finance.”
STATE OF ACADEMIC INFRASTRUCTURES
Among challenges presented to UR top management includes also the shortage of elementary facilities such as projectors, printing machines, etc. Commenting on that, the Deputy Vice Chancelor for Academic Affairs and Research, Prof. Nelson Ijumba expressed his regret on this situation which he finds as a big concern. He promised that UR is going to solve this problem as soon as possible to make sure there is a conducive learning environment. Prof. Ijumba recommended mainly heads of departments to report early hindrances they face that affect teaching conditions on daily basis.
Communication issue was also raised as a problem at the campus for instance lack of information on resolutions taken by senior management meetings. On this point, Vice Chancelor affirmed the University will be uploading resolution on its website after each senior management and board of governor meetings.
FIELD VISITS FOR STUDENTS
The problem of field visits for students was brought to the table of discussion considering that sometimes field visit exercises are abandoned due to lack of funds. In his reaction on that, the Deputy Vice Chancelor for Administration and Finance explained that after realizing some loopholes occurred in the past that compromise financial guidelines the university has set up a policy on field visits within the entire university to allow this exercise get conducted regularly.
Pertaining to the issue of delay as far as salary payment is concerned, the Deputy Vice Chancelor for Administration and Finance elucidate that this happens due to lack of enough qualified staff to deal with salaries. He also raised a subject of deductions on staff salaries as a hindrance for instance when one staff member has like 28 deductions items on his/her salary from different associations.
To the matter of harmonizing university salaries with salaries scheme in the East African Community as suggested by one staff member, the Deputy Vice Chancelor in Charge of Finance and Administration informed that once UR will be given autonomy it will have power to decide its salary scheme which may be harmonized with EAC salary scheme or go beyond.
EXTRA WORKLOAD ARREARS
Some academic staff raised the issue of delay to compensate staff for extra workload hours. On this point, Mr. Pudence Rubingisa, Deputy Vice Chancelor for Finance and Administration explained that a task force to handle this issue was put in place following comments from Auditor General showing mistakes made in the past in the course of payment for extra workload hours in the former institutions that came together to form UR. He emphasized that the University is willing to see this problem solved as soon as possible but in respect of the government policy on paying extra workload hours.
The meeting was concluded by a recall that in case any staff member has an idea, a complaint or any information related to university life, he should feel free to communicate it to UR top management whether face to face or using available communication channels.
UR Huye campus Staff Members listening to UR Top management Officials.
From Left: DVC/Finance&Administration, Vice Chancelor, DVC/Academics&Research and Ag. Principal for CASS.
Another photo for UR Huye campus staff members in the meeting chaired with UR Vice Chancelor on 05/02/2015.
A staff member of UR Huye campus asking a question during an interactive session.
Story by Jean Baptiste Micomyiza