The 2019-2020 budget does not include any allocation to Early Childhood Education – which Finance and economic Planning Minister Dr Uzziel Ndagijimana said was “very expensive”.
Liberal Party lawmaker Theogene Munyangeyo put it to the Minister as to why other levels of educations had been allocated huge resources, yet the lowest and most important had been left out.
Today was budget day in Rwanda, as with all other members of the East African Community (EAC) Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi, but not South Sudan.
Finance Ministers in the five nations appeared in their respective parliaments to unveil the next financial year budgets.
For Rwanda, Dr Ndagijimana’s budget shows that total expenditures for the fiscal year 2019/20 are projected at Rwf 2.87 trillion ($3.1billion), with a slight increase from last year.
Rwanda will finance 85.8% of the whole budget, as government maintains its agenda to wean the country off grants – which come with tough conditions in most cases.
Infrastructure will continue to take the lions share of the budget like it has been from many years back. The education sector will get the second biggest chunk at Rwf 310.2 billion or 10.7 percent of the budget – following by agriculture.
Dr Ndagijimana said the spike in education spending is due to many urgent priorities such as the 10% salary increase for teachers, implementing reforms for the University of Rwanda whose budget rose significantly, primary and secondary materials, and new classrooms to eradicate overcrowding.
“We have to strengthen pre-primary education, primary and secondary education because putting more effort in high education is like building a strong roof while the foundation is stagnating,” said MP Munyangeyo to the Minister after he had presented the budget.
Dr Ndagijimana, in response admitted that no funding had been allocated to early childhood development, but explained that the situation was not unusual to only Rwanda.
“There is a still a gap in pre-primary education. There are also still challenges from primary to high education. Government has been thinking about expanding pre-primary education but it is a very complicated and expansive undertaking,” said the Minister
Dr Ndagijimana said the early childhood education level has 20% of school going kids.
Data from the education ministry shows more than 300,000 kids are enrolled at kindergarten level, more than 2.5m at primary level, and more than 600,000 students at secondary education level.
Despite questioning no allocation to early childhood education, the House plenary overwhelmingly adopted the budget. Only four lawmakers made comments about the budget.
From the 62 Deputies present out of 80 members, 61 voted in favour of the budget, and one invalid vote.