Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Problems of Private Students at Makerere

“We are Building for a Better Future”

P.O. Box 2678, Kampala-Uganda E-mail:wkituuka@gmail.com


Mr. Vice Chancellor Sir, I wish on behalf of the Parents and benefactors of Private Students at Makerere University, to thank you very much for having accepted the parents’ and benefactors invitation in an open forum with yourself to discuss matters pertaining to the private students and their stay at the University.

Mr. Vice Chancellor Sir, more than 20 years ago there was only one Private High School that was known to contribute directly to the University Admissions, that is Namasagali College. The other Higher Schools were all Government owned having all their students sponsored by the Students’ home districts. So, from High school through the University a student was a Government concern as regards meeting the cost of his/her tuition up to graduation from the University.

Mr. Vice Chancellor Sir, I happened to have joined Makerere University in 1980/81 on a Private Sponsorship ticket which sponsorship was changed to Government Sponsorship at the end of that academic year. My experiences for that one year are still fresh in my mind and it is against that background among other things that I thought it timely to mobilise parents and benefactors of Private students to get into some organisational set up to look into the conditions of the private students so as to see them enjoy a more comfortable life as they develop their career life. Incidentally, it was relatively cheaper for a salary earner in 1980 to sponsor a student at Makerere University. I recall my father a grade five teacher by then was able to meet my tuition at the University from his pay cheque in addition to paying school fees for my four sisters who were also at school. Unfortunately, today there are few salary earners who can sustain a University student on their salary pay cheque. This is of great concern to many private students’ parents and benefactors and it is against this background that many have to part with assets to finance the academics of their children.

Mr. Vice Chancellor Sir, the parents and benefactors of Private Students at Makerere University however wish to thank your administration and Government for having opened space for a number of people with appropriate High school qualifications to join Makerere University, in that today the numbers admitted as Government sponsored in one academic year (the 2,000) are what used to be about the total population in the University in the 1980s. So, it has been a great effort to see that the merger University facilities are optimally and economically utilised for the benefit of the increased numbers. More so, the University efforts to generate funds through the private sponsorship scheme to supplement the Government sponsorship efforts mostly as regards staff support, capital developments, and facilitation at various Faculty levels is very commendable, because it is through this effort and innovativeness that the big admissions seen today are managed.

Mr. Vice Chancellor Sir, it will be recalled that on the introduction of the Private Sponsorship Scheme at Makerere University, many people were desperately in need of taking the golden opportunity at any cost. It was therefore of utmost importance to use the fees infrastructure as the means to limit the prospect student population that had accumulated financial resources from their various employment hence the big boost for the Evening programmes. However, when we get to the ground today, given the economic performance among other things, the parents wish to appeal to the University administration to review the fees structure downwards given that a parent has to meet the tuition fees and other University dues, then the living expenses of the student and the cost of scholarstic materials which in totality is a substantial amount of money in multiples of millions of Uganda shillings per Semester.
Mr. Vice Chancellor Sir, the Parents would be happy to learn from the University administration how the fees per course is computed. This will greatly help in getting them to appreciate the fees structure or be used as a platform to negotiate for a reduction in the fees where the current cost is believed to be on the high. This is absolutely necessary mostly on the side of the Professional courses whose charges are exorbitant and in many instances get people with lower passes more “competitive” simply because they have the financial muscle and can afford the high fees the University charges, a situation that may easily contribute to poorer performance on the part of the University if affordability of a fees infrastructure compromises academic excellence.

Mr. Vice Chancellor Sir, much as the fees is generally on the high, many parents/benefactors try to do all they can to keep the students at the University, unfortunately, for a number of reasons that vary from parent to parent it so happens that there may be inability to clear the whole fees infrastructure for a Semester a situation which disqualifies the students in such circumstances from doing that particular Semester’s exams. It is of utmost importance that the University gets to listen to parents/benefactors’ situations and help to bail them on a case by case basis given the big cost the parent undergoes in situations when the student is disqualified from doing scheduled examinations.

Mr. Vice Chancellor Sir, there has been mention of the Student Loan Scheme. The parents pray that the University and Government see to how a practical loan scheme can be implemented. It is a fact that in many other national universities elsewhere Student Loan Schemes are operational. We believe that a similar scheme can be administered at Makerere University with Government’s blessing. There is a general belief that the structure and administration of a Student Loan Scheme can be brain stormed on and an implementable Scheme can finally be formulated.

Mr. Vice Chancellor Sir, it is hard to imagine a student’s life at the University without looking at the convenience of his/her accommodation. You are aware that as a result of the increased admissions at the University it was inevitable for some people to take advantage of the increased demand for accommodation and they ended up doing whatever was possible to reap from this development. The parents are grateful to this as a short term measure in most cases. It is common knowledge in some other universities outside Uganda that when private students are admitted the universities normally have properly gazetted hostels for the students. In the case of Makerere University, the parents wish to appeal to the University to avail some land and thereafter get to terms with corporate developers who may put up storey structures on such leased University land. This measure will be positive in a number of respects. First, a number of students will be confined to the University campus where the reading climate is more conducive and security can be guaranteed. Second, it is also cost effective in that more reasonable charges may be agreed upon and also the service delivery like for the meals may more easily be administered. Third, where there is little lecture facilities, tutorial and seminar rooms as well as library facilities, it is in the right direction to have hostels on the University campus for students’ convenience mostly so during lecture intervals a situation which currently leads many to read under tree shades.

Meanwhile, the parents would love to see that the University has some say in the fees charged by the hostels and that some basic minimum standards that is hygiene, security, the immediate neighbourhood, and the building structure standards are met. There should also be limitation to human traffic to these hostels. Some have visitation hours throughout the night which makes them very insecure and non conducive to student life.

It is in light of the above that the parents and benefactors of private students are getting increasingly concerned as students fall victim in the hostels. Some students have been killed by thugs. May the Almighty God rest their souls in eternal peace, and may He console the bereaved families. Other students have been injured in scuffles by intruders while others have had their property stolen partly because of the laxity in security and its enforcement in some of the hostels.

Mr. Vice Chancellor Sir, given the astronomical expenses met by the Private Students during their stay at the University, it has so happened that some students because of not being properly counselled have ended up terminating their lives. This is partly because there are no student counsellors mostly so for the Private Students, and at times these students find themselves in problems which they believe their parents cannot sort and termination of life is the solution from their point of view. It is also realised that currently many students do without lunch as they have to meet this cost out of pocket. This is unhealthy and the University in partnership with the parents should ensure that a student is assured of some lunch per day. Another welfare issue concerns the lack of any free medical facilities for the private students. This situation the parents believe can be looked into by the University administration to ensure that students get some treatment in the normal course of their stay at the University.

Mr. Vice Chancellor Sir, on the side of the academics, the parents of the private students have issues to address. First, it is appreciated that the University has to vet through so many applicants to determine who qualify for a specific course and who don’t. However, the weighting method is seen as not sufficient to condemn/sentence a student for private sponsorship through his/her stay at the University. It may be necessary to come up with additional screening before Government sponsored students are picked. And since some private students eventually excel in academics as compared to the Government sponsored, it may be worthy to have this sponsorship contested for every academic year to ensure that Government sponsorship always goes to academic excellency.

The parents of Private Students also realise that it is very important for the University to adjust the curriculum per course to the relevancy of the job market. This is at a moment in time when students with diplomas in some instances out-compete University degree holders in similar trades. It is also believed that a curriculum that aims at making the students capable of sustaining themselves in own job creation is in the right direction a situation which calls for the incorporation of Marketing aspects, Feasibility studies, Proposal writing, and Credit management among others in the courses content at the University.

Mr. Vice Chancellor Sir, as regards better performance of the students on whom the parents spend substantial amounts of money through sponsorship, it is our prayer that the teaching staff are made comfortable to deliver excellently. In light of the above, convenient accommodation for the lecturers is of utmost importance. The parents have a view that Government should in the interest of promoting better manpower for this country, gazette the National Housing & Construction Corporation Flats at Wandegeya to the University. This policy will greatly improve on accommodation facilitation of the University teaching staff and also enhance their performance in addition to being an inducement to render teaching services. Some Flats could also conveniently accommodate students who are randomly accommodated in unworthy hostels.

Mr. Vice Chancellor Sir, the parents wish to request that they be represented on the decision making/governing bodies of the University. This request arises out of the prevailing circumstances which are now calling for closer ties and partnership between the University administration and the parents.

Secondly, given that the private students are the eventual beneficiaries of the Private - Students’ Parents’ Association, the parents wish to appeal to the University authorities for support to the said organisation through a remittance of an agreed amount of money per student per academic year, say Shs.10,000 - ten thousand only being deducted from the tuition fees paid. This is in light of financially backing the modalities to benefit all students who fall in the umbrella of being privately sponsored.

With such support assured the Association shall have the financial muscle to handle the set objectives which aim at seeing private students enjoy a more comfortable stay at the University which should equally be seen in the context of their human rights. In addition to the above, the parents request for an office facility at the University to ease co-ordination.

Mr. Vice Chancellor Sir, I once again thank you for having granted audience to the parents and benefactors of the private students at Makerere University. The presentation given is not exhaustive of the situation and prospect remedies given the Private Students’ circumstances, but it is representative. It is my submission that the missing gaps be spiced up by individual parent contributions.

Mr. Vice Chancellor Sir, kindly allow me to modify the University motto “ WE BUILD FOR THE FUTURE” to “WE ARE BUILDING FOR A BETTER FUTURE,” for the sake of fitting in the current context of a dialogue between the University administration and the parents and benefactors of the privately sponsored students. It is my prayer that the parents will adopt the modified motto for our organisation.

“Thank you very much Mr. Vice Chancellor Sir.”

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