The shock that gripped Anthony Kizza in the early morning hours of January 8, this year, is something still fresh in his memory.
As Kizza was heading to Victoria University that morning, he received a call from the guild president, his close friend, informing him that activities at the university had abruptly come to a standstill.
“He first asked me if I knew what was happening at the university. When I told him no, that is when he updated me on the situation at the institution,” Kizza explains.
Opened in 2011 by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the university offered and awarded degrees from the highly regarded University of Buckingham, UK.
But on January 8, it suspended the accreditation for courses at the university on over the anti-gay-bill that was tabled before Parliament.
As much as the university offered the students the option of going to Dubai to continue their studies, Kizza who was studying Business Management and Information systems, did not apply.
“I decided not to bother myself because my sponsors could not afford to pay the high fees,” he briefly explains.
Kizza then applied to some of the different public and private universities. He was however not considered. After months of running back and forth, he decided to eventually settle for an eight weeks course in Cisco at the Kibo Foundation, a registered Canadian corporation located in Kansanga.
Some of the other students on the other hand have had to spend a lot of money, trying to secure vacancies in different learning institutions.
Collins Bita, a former first year student at the university, is one of them. He opted to apply at some of the private universities and admits to spending over Shs250,000.
“I used part of this money for getting the application forms, photocopying documents as well as for transport,” Bita explains.
He also confesses that after the university’s closure, he had to deal with his guardians who blamed him for having chosen to study there in the first place.
“They were really mad and angry at me. According to them, their money had gone to waste just like that,” Bita says.
Their anger only ceased after he finally received a confirmation letter from one of the private universities confirming his admission.
Since some of the students were not comfortable with the idea of going to study in Middlesex University Dubai for the Buckingham courses, Simo S. Dubajic, the executive director of Edulink Holdings, the Dubai based company that owns Victoria University confirms that their tuition was refunded.
“It was the only fair thing to do since their studies had not even commenced,” Dubajic explains.
Meanwhile, studies are still on-going at the university for students who enrolled for courses under the Uganda National Council for Higher Education.
According to Dubajic, these students were not affected because their syllabus is different from the UK curriculum that the majority of the other students were taking. He dismisses a few claims still going round that the university has permanently been closed.
One of the male students currently studying at the university who spoke to the Daily Monitor on anonymity states that on many occasions, individuals ask him why he is still at the institution that decided to suspend some courses because of the proposed legislation against gay rights.
“They keep saying all sorts of negative and hateful things about the university in that I have reached a point where I have stopped mentioning the name of the learning institution whenever I am asked where I study from,” he explains.
While some of the former students will be joining other public and private universities such as Makerere University, Kyambogo University and Uganda Christian University (UCU) to continue their studies in the upcoming academic year which starts in September, the same cannot be said for a group of about 30 students whose visa applications to Dubai were rejected.
“I met all the visa requirements but I do not understand why they refused to give me one,” a student who only preferred to identify himself only as Shafique wonders.
Dubajic explains that what happened to these stranded students was quite unfortunate and it was for reasons that were beyond the institution. He states that Edulink Holdings Company is however trying to help them out by all means possible.
“We inquired about the reapplication of the visas and also tried to assist some of these students to travel to Sri Lanka’s Victoria Higher Education campus which offers courses in collaboration with the University of Greenwich in the UK,” Dubajic explains.
On the lighter side of things, Dubajic states that he is already receiving overwhelming feedback for some of the students who are already in Dubai. He backs up his statement by showing me a few thank you letters some students have sent him.
What is clear though is that many students have had to start afresh while others are still stranded, wondering where to start from again.
Tomorrow, we look at how various activities in Makerere University have been affected since the closure of the campus