Ten Scottish universities are offering scholarship places to Rwandan women in the latest stage of a project which has already helped revitalise education in the African country.
The Rotary University Scholarship Scheme, Rwanda (RUSSR), is organised by Gerda Siann, Professor Emeritus in Gender Relations at the University of Dundee.
In the academic year 2003-04, seven Rwandan women benefited from the programme. This year that number is set to grow significantly with ten Scottish universities now offering openings.
The universities involved are St Andrews, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow Caledonian, Stirling, Aberdeen, Abertay, Glasgow, Heriot- Watt and Strathclyde. In all, eleven places are being made available to Rwandan women.
The University of Dundee plays a central role in the programme and will be hosting three lunches for the Rwandan students over the academic year in order for them to maintain links with each other.
Study fees are waived by the universities to make it easier for the Rwandan women to come and study in Scotland. The Ministry of Education in Rwanda pays living costs.
Rotary International links each student with a supporting family and helps handle the financial and organisational arrangements.
Professor Siann, who recently visited Rwanda, said, “In the two years since I was last in the country the progress in social, economic and educational areas has been most impressive.
“Everybody I spoke to in Rwanda told me of their optimism for the future in Rwanda, and many particularly in the Ministry of Education expressed their thanks to the universities of Scotland in contributing to this.”
Prof Siann was particularly impressed by the new agency which has been set up by the Rwandan government, Student Financing Agency for Rwanda, which under the directorship of Mr Emmanuel Muvunyi has provided invaluable support for RUSSR.
She also stressed the strong support given by the Rwandan Minister for Education, Honorable Professor Roman Murenzi, and to the Rwandan Embassy in the UK and the Ambassador Mrs Rosemary Museminali.
Gordon McInally, President of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland said, “I am delighted that Rotary in Scotland is supporting this scholarship scheme through the provision of host counsellors for each of the students, a role which we already carry out in the Ambassadorial Scholarship programme administered by The Rotary Foundation which is the largest privately funded scholarship scheme in the world.
“As a graduate of the University of Dundee myself, I am very grateful to the university for the role it is playing in the scheme as well as the generosity of all the universities in providing places for the scholars.
“I am familiar with Rwanda through the time I have spent there working on the project “Rotary’s Africa Hope” which is helping the orphans of the genocide and HIV/AIDS. I am confident that RUSSR will help the development of this very worthy country.”
The scholarship scheme was set up as a registered charity to further the education of Rwandan women and contribute to capacity building in a country which had been devastated by genocide.
In a speech given to a meeting in the House Of Commons on Womens’ Day 2005 on behalf of Mrs Museminali, the Ambassador said, “Since those tragic events a decade ago the country has made huge strides in rebuilding every aspect of its society. With the general population having been decimated by the loss of so many men in the conflict, the education of girls and women in Rwanda has become critical to maintaining the country’s redevelopment.
“Women now play a huge role in steering Rwanda. Almost 50% of the country’s parliament is made up of women and they occupy many significant positions throughout government and administration.”