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How effective is Makerere’s new policy on feeding private students?

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Private students residing in halls have been forced to find alternative

Private students residing in halls have been forced to find alternative eating places because the university can no longer afford to pay their bills. Photo by Abubakar Lubowa. 

By PATIENCE AHIMBISIBWE

Posted  Tuesday, December 3  2013 at  02:00
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KAMPALA- When Makerere University decided to halt feeding private students in halls of residence this academic year, they hoped it would save them on the expenses since they were under charged.

This, followed a finance planning and administration committee report to the university council on the financial status where the report said the university was experiencing financial constraints after accumulating Shs66 billion in arrears as of June 30.

According to the vice chancellor, Prof John Ssentamu-Ddumba, food prices had increased and the provision of Shs2,000 to feed a student every day compared to Shs15,000 needed was no longer enough.

“Due to increased prices in food items, the current provision of Shs2,000 per student per day is inadequate to meet feeding as opposed to Shs15,000, electricity and water tariffs have more than doubled yet the resource envelope remains inelastic, this makes utility arrears eminent,” Prof Ddumba said.

The university receives Shs2,000 to feed each private and government student every day. This includes break fast, lunch and supper.
But as it turns out, the university is likely to even spend more. Students have resorted to cook for themselves using electricity.

According to Ms Alinda, (not real for fear of being reprimanded) a resident in CCE hall, she spent Shs200,000 her parents had given her for food for the semester in two weeks. There are four months in a semester.

Her efforts to get more money to take her through the remaining days were futile. Worried on how she would carry on, she agreed with her three roommates and they bought a hotplate. They started cooking for themselves.

Although she is aware of the illegality to cook from the hall of residence, she confided that almost all students living in halls are using electricity to cook, which bill will in turn be paid by the university. She said in her neighbouring room, a colleague forgot to unplug the hotplate only to find her mattress on fire. Luckily it was quickly put out and it didn’t spread.

“We all cook using electricity. It is expensive to eat from restaurants. We only have to be careful so that authorities don’t find our gadgets because it is illegal,” she said.

Depending on the menu, it will cost a student between Shs6,000 to Shs10,000 per meal in restaurants near the university. This means a parent needs at least Shs2.2 million to feed a student for a semester.

Safety concerns
But while this may be saving them the expenses on food from restaurants, their safety is not guaranteed.

There have been several incidents of fire gutting schools, markets and commercial buildings across the country although the cause in most cases is never known.
However, it is suspected that some people forget to switch off electric machines that later destroys property worth billions.

Some students are already insecure because of these activities. Mr Onesmus Muwanga, the president Makerere University private students Association told Daily Monitor in an interview.

He said management’s decision to stop feeding private students has not only led to theft in the university but also increased prostitution especially among girls who now have to find means of survival.

“Sugar daddies are now taking this as an opportunity to exploit young girls at campus just because the government has failed to supplement on the extra fees needed to provide sufficient meals for the students. This is going to increase theft, prostitution and spread of diseases,” Mr Muwanga said.

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