A semester never elapses at Makerere University without students’ rioting against a policy that necessitates them pay tuition. It was the same story last week when students engaged police in running battles for three days demanding University administration to scrap a policy that requires them to pay 60 per cent by the 6th week of the semester.
Makerere University being a public institution, students argue that they should be allowed to pay tuition at their discretion even when they are admitted on private sponsorship programmes. The argument that they can only pay tuition when they want is simply illogical.
On the other side, government isn’t supportive. Since the introduction of cost-sharing scheme for higher education in Uganda in early 1990s, government has distanced itself from higher education funding. In terms of total government expenditure, higher education has over the past two decades consistently received somewhere between 9 and 13 per cent of total expenditure on education. Insufficient government funding made support to the public universities difficult thereby shifting the burden of education to the students/parents.
The story of Makerere encountering government budgetary cuts started in 1991 when the university budgeted for more than Shs10.6 billion recurrent expenditure but government allocated it Shs3.5 billion. Later, government further reduced the money to Shs2.6 billion. Since then, Makerere has received less by 50 per cent of its proposed recurrent budget and less than 10 per cent of proposed development funding.
In presence of the university administrators, on Saturday, the Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura told students that the 60 per cent tuition policy was unrealistic and a security threat. His statement was greeted with ululations. Why not encourage students to try and pay fees on time?
I can say that the IGP’s dictum was ridiculous because police is among the government agencies which had received a supplementary budget. Government says it will support the university council decision that students should clear tuition by the end of 12th week (less than two weeks from now). Let me wait for IGP’s response when students strike arguing that the resolution is unfair.
As a private student, I think we (students) and government should review our attitude toward playing our positions-financing the institution. Let’s stride towards establishing a win-win not a win-lose situation.
Most Makerere strikes are planned by a section of students who instead of demonstrating their anger in a courteous manner turn to looting shops/canteen around the, beating and forcing fellow students to join strikes, staging roadblocks, exhorting money, breaking glasses of university structures and cars parked around.
Not once, the university administrators have only issued empty threats to discipline these rogue characters who are tarnishing its name. And it hasn’t developed a behaviour management mechanism aiming at positively influencing students’ behaviour. It’s time for management to chastise rogue characters.