Dundee waives fees for Rwandan women's leaders

March 26, 1999

Speciosa Nakavuma is the first beneficiary of a Dundee University scholarship scheme aimed at helping Rwandan women to rebuild their country.

"Rwanda has suffered appallingly in recent years," said Janet Sprent, Dundee's former deputy principal and a trustee of the scheme. "In 1994 alone, between 500,000 and 1 million people were murdered. Of those that are left, 65-70 per cent are female, a group that has traditionally been excluded from higher education, but on whom the country's hopes depend."

Dundee has waived all fees for the four-year scheme. Student travel and living costs come from the charitable trust, whose patrons include MPs Oona King and Jenny Tonge. The British Council has paid Ms Naka-vuma's travel costs, while John Smiths bookshop has supplied her textbooks. The scheme is backed by the Rwanda UK Goodwill Organisation.

"We are doing what we can to help (Rwandan) women make a practical contribution to their country.

"We have stuck to subjects such as engineering, pharmaceuticals and computing, which are badly needed," Professor Sprent said.

Ms Nakavuma, chosen from a shortlist by the Universite Nationale du Rwanda, has come into the second year of a Dundee civil engineering degree. There were only four women out of 80 students on her civil engineering course in Rwanda, and she hopes her work will help overcome the prejudiced view that women cannot study science.

Her ambition is to set up a project, the Pioneer Women's Construction Company, to challenge the view that such initiatives are a male preserve. Any profits will help finance other women through university.

"If this project works well, the ministry of gender, family and social affairs can use it to show that women can do things if you give them a chance, and show parents that girls have value," Ms Nakavuma said.

More than two-thirds of Rwanda's University academics were lost during the genocide, and equipment was looted or vandalised.

* Anyone wishing to make a donation to the Rwandan Women's University Scholarships should contact Gerda Siann, NCR professor of gender relations, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 4HN. Telephone: 01382 345033, fax: 01382 345029.

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