In Rwanda, Building a “University in a Box”

Wyatt Orme & Tik Root | Medium | Photo: Juan Herrero

Under a bright, midday sun, a large group of prospective college students waits in the parking lot outside
 Kepler University, in the Rwandan capital of Kigali. The results of the morning’s admissions tests will soon be taped to a large window next to the school’s entrance. For many of those waiting, acceptance to Kepler could mean an end to their poverty. One young man, who cleans dishes at a hotel to support his family, says earning a spot here would be the “first happiness in [his] life.”

The student hopefuls stand and sit in small groups and speak to one another softly; their conversations are mostly drowned out by noise from nearby construction sites. Everyone appears calm, even though just a third of those who took this morning’s exam will advance to the interview stage after lunch. When the results are posted, our man learns that he’s not one of them.

Kepler has been testing groups of applicants like this around the country for the past month. This year, they received around 6,700 applications for 150 spots, which puts their acceptance rate at roughly two percent. Last year, Harvard’s undergraduate acceptance rate was triple that, at six percent.


This story was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting