Bursaries: How much do they help?

Tuesday January 30 2018

Makerere University graduates celebrate the

Makerere University graduates celebrate the 65th graduation ceremony. File photo  

By Desire Mbabaali

Not many learners are lucky to get a bursary that caters for their education from primary school to university like Daniel Waswa, a Development Studies graduate from Makerere University.
Waswa joined Christian Relief Fund (CRF), an international organisation of Kampala Church of Christ, in 1995 while in Primary Two.
“My siblings and I joined the organisation at a time when we had no hope. We had just lost our father and our mother was a maid who earned Shs200,000 a month. We were sponsored by CRF from primary school to Senior Six,” Waswa says.
After Senior Six, he joined university but kept struggling with retakes because he could not pay tuition in time.
“The head of the organisation was following up on me all the while. One day, he told me that CRF wanted to give university students some bursaries and that I should try applying. I did, and was successful,” he narrates.
At every beginning of the term, Waswa would collect his school fees from the CRF offices, pay it and take back the bank slips for record keeping. At the end of the term, he had to take his report card, and write letters to sponsors – for purposes of staying in touch and letting them know how life was proceeding.
Rewarding good performance
Jerry Alinda, a Makerere University School of Law graduate, is thankful for the bursary Merryland High School in Entebbe offered him. Asked if he had been chosen because he was from a poor family during the recent Makerere University graduation, Alinda said he was instead chosen on academic merit.
“Merryland has a policy of rewarding some of the top performers in the school and so due to my good performance, I was given a scholarship for my two years of A-Level,” he says.
But most importantly after A-Level, he says, the school followed him up since he was among the best students in Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education. “My teachers would contact me often to ask about my progress until graduation,” he says.
Alinda admits that though he probably would have been in his current status today because his parents were capable of paying his school fees, he recognises that the bursary was the motivation that fueled him to always excel. “Bursaries are an incentive for people who work hard as well as helping hardworking, less privileged students who are willing to pursue their academic goals,” Alinda says.
For Dr Fred Mutamba, a recent graduate, says his academic might landed him an opportunity he did not even think existed. “After Senior Four, because of my good grades (I got eight in eight), I was headhunted by Merryland High School through its agencies. I signed a two-year bursary. Fortunately, I was excellent for all the time I was there,” he says.

Bad apples
Sometimes there are bad apples that rip unsuspecting, hopeless students off in the name of giving bursaries. Lillian Nakhayama is one such student who landed on the bad ones. Her mother is a single mother of four children with Nakhayama as the first born. When she joined secondary school, like most poor parents, they tried looking for schools that could give them a bursary.
“Coincidentally, a new school opened up in our neighborhood (name reserved) and promised to give brilliant students bursaries and some half bursaries up to Senior Six. I joined the school,” she says.
However, her joy did not last long because the following year, the school announced closure of their bursary scheme leaving many children hopeless, so, they had to look for other sponsors.
“At a church in our locality, we were asked to pay Shs200,000 to be enrolled on their sponsorship scheme but then it turned out we had talked to the wrong person who had ripped us off,” Nakhayama says.
But Jimmy Mbeyi, the school head, Merryland High School, says people should always be on the lookout for schools and organisations that have a stellar record.
“For instance we started our sponsorship scheme close to 15 years ago. It was for educating brilliant, but needy children. We wanted to give them an opportunity so that when they occupy the offices that we occupy, they are also able to give back to society,” he says.
He also notes that there are many people out there who help people in various ways but if we are to improve the quality of the population, the practical way to help is through giving education.
“We keep telling the children we have sponsored that the education is not for them to amass wealth but to serve and give back so that others can also get an opportunity,” Mbeyi says.