The challenges in the education sector in Uganda continue to disturb the minds of education experts, stakeholders and ordinary citizens alike. While addressing graduands during the 21st graduation ceremony at Ndejje University last Friday, former Makerere University Chancellor, Prof George Mondo Kagonyera, called for, among others, a review and streamlining of the Higher Education Students Financing (HESF), given the inconsistencies and the manner in which it is dispensed.
Whereas the HESF scheme is meant to help mainly needy students to afford tuition for higher education, this doesn’t seem to be the case. The awkward reality is what pertains on the ground. The well designed and much hyped scheme, has apparently been hijacked by the rich, who can afford tuition for tertiary and university education. This is not a good course the country should take.
The strategic planners in this country should make sure that all citizens, poor or rich, men or women get a chance to get and where possible have a chance to further their education to the highest possible level. After all, the money allotted for the scheme is taxpayers’ money.
Alienating the poor, moreover who are the majority in a population of nearly 44 million people, by the rich encroaching on the only window (loan scheme) available to them to further their education, is the highest level of corruption and injustice, which must be stopped.
Prof Kagonyera expressed his frustration with the trend the students’ loan scheme is taking, saying: “It is surprising that students from the well-to-do families who can meet the tuition are the ones getting the loans and the needy Ugandans are left out. This injustice should be checked.” He is spot on.
There is also the challenge of the education system in the country. The system focuses on students passing examination and not reading to understand and internalise concepts and subjects they study. And because today’s schools, teachers, students, and parents are pre-occupied with having students passing exams, the urge to engage in examination malpractices sets in.
This includes buying exam papers, stealing and leaking of examination questions in order to score best grades.
Unfortunately, it is again children from the well-to-do families who are the major beneficiaries of exam malpractices. The implication is that the majority children from humble backgrounds, who often don’t post excellent results, can only join third world schools or drop out of school altogether.
This must be checked.
Therefore, the call by Prof Kagonyera for a review of the students’ loan scheme should be extended to capture the entire education system. Let all citizens have equal chances to access and continue with their education. They should also be able to a competitive and fair examination process where the best wins.
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